Australia

Backpacker: Bed bugs from hostel landed me in the hospital

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A German backpacker says his dream holiday to Australia turned into a nightmare when he was hospitalized for several days after being attacked by bed bugs in a Sydney city hostel.

Patrick Rose, 24, is considering pursuing legal action against Sydney Backpackers Pty Ltd after he was allegedly ravaged by the vermin during his stay at the hostel on Wilmot Street in February, which led to a nasty infection that left him having to get around on crutches.

And having been refused a refund on his upfront payment to the hostel, the backpacker (who has very little money) said his condition also forced him to turn down much-needed paid work during his stay in Sydney.

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But the hostel denies the claims and says it did offer Rose a refund, which the backpacker’s lawyer, Shine Lawyers’ Thomas Jansen, said his client “strongly denies."

“Given his financial situation, which can best be described as living hand to mouth, I agree with him as the money would’ve come in handy for him,” Jansen told news.com.au.

‘IT WAS JUST PAIN’

Rose said it was his very first night at the hostel, on February 5, that he was attacked by bedbugs in his bunk bed in his shared dorm room.

“The next day I realized I had some bites but I didn’t know what it was,” he told news.com.au. “The second day I woke and found a bedbug on my pillow, and it was a big one, and I went to reception and told them and they just moved my room.

“I tried to get my money back but they told me they were not able to do this.”

He said he was moved to another room, where he found bedbugs in the bedding, bed frame and carpet.

But as his requests for a refund on his prepaid, nine-day stay were refused, and he couldn’t afford to seek alternative accommodation, Rose said he had no choice to put up with it — until the bites on his legs went from itchy spots to painful welts and blisters.

“In the beginning I had small bites on my arms and they were itchy, but on my legs, when it got infected, it was hurting. I couldn’t stand on my left foot anymore. I couldn’t really sleep — it was just pain.

“I asked if I could get my money back and I was told ‘no, no, no’.”

After visiting several doctors Rose says he was eventually told to go to hospital where he was treated for the infection.

“They told me it was a good idea to come to hospital because [if I’d left it] one day later, the infection was going to be close to the bone and I was lucky I didn’t need an operation,” he said.

“So they helped me with medicine, I was hooked up to a machine for two and a half days and then I could leave the hospital, but I was still walking around with crutches.”

Making matters worse, Rose said he was forced to turn down a job offer he'd been hoping for because he was in hospital.

“I said for the next couple of weeks I couldn’t work because I couldn’t stand on my left foot. And I lost that job. It would have been a lot of money,” he said.

“It was a really bad time. I lost four weeks of my travel. I would have loved to spend those weeks to travel the west coast but I couldn’t do that.”

‘IT WAS WAY MORE THAN BED BUG BITES’

Sydney Backpackers manager Dan Jeon told news.com.au the hostel did offer Rose a refund and help finding other accommodation after becoming aware of the backpacker’s condition two days after he checked in, after he’d already seen a doctor.

He also said the marks on Rose’s body were something he’d “never seen” in his eight years as a hostel manager — and they didn’t “seem like bed bugs”.

“The skin was swollen and blistered and I thought it was definitely way more than the bed bug bites,” Jeon said.

“I asked him if he has any skin allergies towards bug bites then he said no. I suggested [to] him to leave the hostel that day [and offered] help in searching for other accommodation and promised that we will fix his medical bills and refund the nights he was not staying.

“He told me that he just wanted us to move him to another room and see what happens, hoping that it won’t get worse.”

The manager said he next saw Rose after he had been in hospital.

“He was asking if he could get the refund for all his accommodation together with all his medical bills,” he said.

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“He also blamed [us] as if we must be responsible for his flight going back home, living costs for him not making money as he was unable to work, et cetera.

“I told him again that we would still fix up his first medical bill as promised, but besides and above he made his own decision of staying and carrying the risk even after he had been offered with options to leave earlier with a refund.”

Jeon said after Rose checked out on February 14, a council Department of Health inspected the site and “did not find a sign of infestation in the room that Patrick had stayed."

Jansen, Rose’s lawyer, said he believed the check carried out by Department of Health inspectors was not a thorough inspection.

The manager said due to the nature of the shared living, bed bugs did happen and when they did, the hostel sought professional pest control in addition to regular controls through the year.

“I still feel really sorry ending him up with bad experience on his stay and the time for his inconvenience if he was still suffering, but we definitely tried to help and showed a duty of care,” Jeon said.