Bat infestation forces hospital to evacuate patients

RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C.,None — A Richmond County Hospital has essentially shut its doors due to a bat infestation.

Hospital officials at Richmond Memorial in Rockingham evacuated patients over the weekend and closed most of the building, except for the emergency room.

County health officials told Eyewitness News they first began receiving reports of bats flying into patients' rooms a few weeks ago.

"We've actually sent staff out to retrieve some of the bats to our state lab for testing of rabies," said health director Tommy Jarrell.

Jarrell said he was concerned about rabies, and exposure to bat droppings, which can sometimes cause a fungal infection in humans.

So far, none of the bats removed have tested positive for rabies, and patients have been given vaccinations.

"This is the first time we've had to deal with this type of issue," Jarrell admitted.

Residents were also shocked by the news.

"It almost seems like a story out of a movie," said Jerry Moss.

The hospital has hired a special company, Get Bats Out, to remove the bats.

The company has sealed the cracks in the walls where the bats were living, and has installed a special door that will let the bats out at night to hunt, but prevents them from returning to the building.

Hospital officials said any patient who had an appointment Monday or Tuesday can visit the regional hospital in Pinehurst or reschedule for a later date.