updated 4/30/2009 3:19:31 PM ET 2009-04-30T19:19:31

A pack of mice mauled a bedridden 89-year-old man at an Australian nursing home, shredding parts of his ears and prompting the government Thursday to launch an investigation into the facility.

Federal Minister for Aging Justine Elliot ordered a probe into what the government-run nursing home in Queensland state was doing to protect residents, saying in a statement that the attack was "extremely disturbing and traumatic for residents and their families."

Ray Hopper, a state opposition legislator who was alerted to the mauling by the man's family earlier this week, said the resident was found covered in blood by nursing staff Saturday.

"An elderly, bedridden gentleman had the tops of his ears severely chewed, his head badly bitten and a very bad wound in the throat," Hopper said. "His hands were covered in blood when they found him; he'd obviously been so distressed trying to get the mice away."

Out-of-control mouse infestation
Hopper accused health officials of being slow to respond to an out-of-control mouse infestation at Dalby Hospital, where Karingal Nursing Home is located.

"It is the most disgusting, horrific thing," Hopper said. "There wasn't a wall of mice suddenly hitting the place — this has been building up for three weeks. They had plenty of time to act."

Pam Lane, a Queensland state government health officer, confirmed that two residents had been treated for mouse bites at the home and called the attacks "unfortunate."

"We are doing everything we can to rid the mice from the facility," she said in a statement.

Hospital officials referred calls to the Queensland health department, which released a statement saying the hospital has added extra staff and instituted an "extensive baiting and trapping program."

Crews wiping up mouse droppings
Traps were being emptied hourly and cleaning crews were wiping up mouse droppings at the 80-bed facility in Dalby, about 120 miles west of the state capital, Brisbane.

The health department blamed the incident on the mouse plague spreading across the region. The creatures were infiltrating buildings as they sought refuge from the chill of Australia's autumn weather, it said.

Queensland Health Minister Paul Lucas told reporters in Brisbane he had apologized to the victim and his family and offered to relocate other residents of the facility.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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