BALTIMORE – The latest report from the City of Baltimore Inspector General highlights the extreme unsanitary conditions at the Druid Sexual Health Clinic.
During a visit to their location on North Avenue, the Inspector General noticed a foul odor before discovering rodents and dead insects that had been left for months in the basement supply room and the staircase.
The Inspector General wrote that the findings potentially violate Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations and memoranda of understanding the city has entered into with its unions, raising health concerns and security for those working at the clinic.
Other issues highlighted in the report include leaky ceilings and pipes as well as a faulty HVAC system, causing ventilation issues.
Sometimes the lack of air and high temperatures forced the facility to suspend rapid HIV and hepatitis C testing.
Such conditions could mean inaccurate STD test results, as rapid kits must be stored at certain ambient temperatures.
The Inspector General during the visit found boxes of expired tests, for which the City of Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr Letitia Dzirasa later confirmed they were due to “temperature fluctuations” .
Apparently, the results did not surprise Dzirasa, who in a letter admitted to being “aware of infrastructure and operational issues and concerns raised by staff for some time.”
She also acknowledged that leaks in the ceilings could endanger the records and other supplies stored in the building.
It turns out that the building has been operating as a health clinic for 60 years.
According to Dzirasa, little effort and resources have been made available for the upkeep of the building despite its impact on customers and staff.
“The building is old, deteriorating and not up to code. The temperature problem has been around for a long time due to the age of the HVAC system,” Dzirasa wrote. “In December 2020, there was no heat for several days as the boiler finally broke. A temporary boiler has been installed, and we continue to operate with the temporary boiler in place while a custom boiler is installed. constructed, which ultimately may not be a long-term solution. The temperature fluctuations in the building have continued and are having an impact on our staff, customers and community partners, ”continued Dzirasa.
However, improvements continue to be limited.
The installation of a new boiler is delayed by an issue with the vendor’s city business license.
The building also needs a complete HVAC system replacement, but so far the Department of Health has only requested $ 150,000 for the design fee for a partial HVAC system upgrade.
Then there is an urgent need for a new roof, which Dzirasa says is also on hold until the HVAC system is replaced.
“The roof replacement project is on hold until the HVAC project is complete, as there is a possibility that the installation of the HVAC units on the roof will damage the new roof. He is also suspended pending final decisions related to potential [Federal American Rescue Plan] funding to support [Druid Sexual Health Clinic] renovation versus new construction. “
As to how to stop rats, Dzirasa says a pest control supplier is supposed to come to the clinic every two weeks to remove old traps and set new ones.
Still, the city apparently delayed payments to the company, resulting in service disruptions.
“Unfortunately, due to late payments to the contracted pest control supplier, the failures of the pest control services at the site continue,” Dzirasa wrote.
This leaves the janitors to remove the dead rodents, who refuse to do so because they say it is “outside their scope of services with the City”.
Last but not least, residents and neighbors have long overflowed with trash in the clinic’s dumpster, resulting in an increased rodent infestation.
The clinic has tried several things to address these issues. First, the city started emptying the dumpster more frequently, and second, a fence was placed around the dumpster to cut off public access.
That plan has since backfired, as garbage is now dumped outside the fence on the sidewalk next to the building.
Dzirasa said there was talk of hiring roving security guards or installing cameras to help reduce the amount of trash that accumulates.
In the meantime, the long list of issues at the Druid’s Sexual Health Clinic lingers as the city determines the building’s future plans and how to fund it.