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Terminally ill patient denied treatment due to bed bug infestation

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Paul Bornand Paul Bornand
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A terminally ill cancer patient is unable to receive home health care because the entire floor of his apartment building is infested with bed bugs. 

58-year-old Paul Bornand has been living with AIDS for nearly two decades, but his doctors tell him he has about six more months because of an aggressive form of skin cancer that has spread to his bones.

"The cancer, I can – I know how to approach that spiritually and medically to some extent, but putting this on top of it..." Bornand said trailing off, and looking away.

Bornand says his bigger fight right now is bed bugs.

"I'll see them in the drapes, on the air conditioner, under my piano, on the keys of the piano, on my stove, walking across the floor," Bornand rattled off.

He says the bed bugs in his apartment, especially in his bedroom, have gotten so bad, he's been sleeping in his wheel chair in the living room instead.

Bornand says the infestation is costing him more than sleep.  He says for the last three weeks they've kept him from getting the health care he needs at his 21 Craigside apartment – a housing facility owned and operated by the United Church of Christ.

"Each day that it's infested is a day that I don't have access to any of the health services that might be accessible to me as someone who is in their terminal phase of life," Bornand said, explaining that when he called St. Francis Home Care Services to arrange for a nurse, a representative told him that wouldn't be possible until property management can eradicate the bed bugs.

St. Francis Home Care Services provided Hawai'i News Now with this statement: "As with all home health and home care providers, St. Francis Home Care Services conducts a thorough assessment of all prospective patients and their environment.  The health and safety of the patients and staff are priorities, and we would ensure any infestation is properly addressed so that they are not put at risk.  St. Francis would also provide prospective patients who may be exposed to infestation with other housing options."

Bornand says he noticed the bed bugs about three months ago, but they got persistently worse until building management first treated them about six weeks ago. 

Bornand says the exterminators sprayed a few apartments and his hallway, but the problem didn't go away. He says he filed repeated complaints with building officials, but felt his efforts were in vain.

"When you're getting eaten alive by these things and you call your management company and say I'm getting eaten alive by the bed bugs in the building that I didn't bring in and I'm not responsible for, and as far as I'm concerned and I've been told, you're supposed to be fixing this problem, so call me back.  And there would be no call back," Bornand described.

He says exterminators finally returned Tuesday because the infestation had spread to all eight units on the fourth floor.

Bornand's property management provided Hawai'i News Now with this statement from Sherman Hee, the Executive Director of Hawai‘i Conference Foundation: "We empathize with what residents of the one floor at 21 Craigside are dealing with right now, especially Paul Bornan with his medical condition.  As soon as our management company was made aware of the problem they responded quickly, which included two visits by exterminators who have been out twice already. As you know, a problem like this does not disappear overnight but we are committed to eradicating the problem and making sure this does not happen again. "

Bornand says he's been hospitalized twice with complications from trying to address the infestation on his own.

"I broke my clavicle just shifting my weight when I was trying to do some of this cleaning that needed to be done," Bornand explained, adding he's been boiling and bagging his clothes every night to fight the spread of bed bugs.

"I was so stressed out and working so hard trying to get things done that my – I became dehydrated and I ended up in the heart unit for 6 days with renal failure," Bornand said.

Department of Health officials say they can't force property owners to treat bed bugs because they're considered a nuisance, not a public health threat.

"Unless they're carrying some type of disease or transmitting some type of disease than the health department is not going to regulate it," explained Peter Oshiro, the Environmental Health Program Manager for the state's health department.

Bornand's hopeful Tuesday's extermination will finally bring him the peace he's seeking.

"Nothing fazes me, but this one was just way beyond anything I could -- or anyone of us on the 4th floor -- it was out of our experience," Bornand described.

"I was given less than six months and I thought, well I'm going to try to make as best quality of those six months that I have and I want to have fun and enjoy every day and I don't want to be spending it doing piddly stuff, like trying to deal with problems like this.  It's a real waste of time, which is precious," Bornand said.

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