Bedbugs: What San Francisco Can Learn From New York City

What to do, what to do?
San Francisco has spent a great deal of time trying to figure how best to resolve the growing bedbug problem -- particularly in SROs.

But here is an idea. How about the Public Health Department take a look at how New York City is dealing with bedbugs.

NYC's Health and Mental Hygiene Department (yes, that's really a great way to characterize it) has developed a cutting-edge Web site that gives you the blow-by-blow of what to do when you find a bedbug, for starters. Even better, it uses audio instruction and graphics to show you how to prevent bedbugs from proliferating inside your home, and how to properly remove an infested mattress.

Now why couldn't we have come up with this?

Supervisor Jane Kim, who has taken charge on combating bedbugs in San Francisco, told SF Weekly that earlier this week she met with Barbara Garcia, the chief of the city's Public Health Department. One of the topics of conversation: How can San Francisco mimic New York's tech-savvy way of tackling bedbugs?

"There needs to be stronger information portals -- and we don't have that, and she agreed," Kim says. "We are behind the ball."

We contacted the Bedbug Advisory Council to find out more about this informative Web site, and whether it has actually helped to curb the critters on the East Coast. We will update you when we hear back.

Yes, disseminating information isn't the panacea to this pesky problem. As we've stated before, there have to be more than two health inspectors vetting dwellings for bedbugs citywide. To put it into context, there's one inspector for every 10,000 units in San Francisco. Meanwhile, there were 572 bedbug complaints last year at hotels and shelters; of those, 30 percent resulted in actual violations.

Jeff Buckley, a member of the city's Bedbug Working Group, pointed out that San Francisco's information portal is not only weak but outdated; the documents haven't been updated in five to 10 years, he says. There are no clear instructions on how to properly dispose of an infested mattress and tenants are unsure what's their responsibility and what's their landlord's when it comes to bedbugs, he says.  

"We need much greater reform to all of the processes but I think the major component is access to information," he says. "It really could be a lifesaver and reduce the amount of infestations."

Buckley and his group are clearly growing impatient with the health department. He tells us that they will be rolling out their own ideas for reforms very, very soon.

"It just shouldn't be that hard for people to find information," he says.

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The culture of SFDPH does not allow them to collaborate, only "innovate" They believe they are far superior to nearly every public health entity in the nation. Just bean counters wasting huge amounts of tax dollars.

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