A new report from the Baltimore Office of the Inspector General raises concerns about dead rodents, water damage and fluctuating temperatures that put medical supplies in jeopardy at a city-run sexual health clinic in Druid Heights.
Inspectors conducted a site visit in December 2020 where they found the clinic at 1515 North Ave. in Baltimore struggled with rodents in its basement, water damage and water leak issues, an outdoor dumpster constantly overflowing with trash from neighbors and temperature control issues that employees said have caused delays in testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
The conditions are potential violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and health and safety agreements the city has with labor unions, according to the report.
The age of the clinic’s building has been a hurdle in addressing sanitation and health concerns, according to the Baltimore City Health Department, which said in a statement that the building has been a city-run clinic for around 60 years.
“The building is old, deteriorating, and not up to code,” Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore’s commissioner of health, said in a statement.
The health department contracts with a pest control company to set up and remove rodent traps every two weeks, according to the report, but the janitorial company that cleans the clinic refuses to remove dead rodents.
“Regrettably, due to delays in payments to the contracted pest control vendor, lapses in pest control services at the site continue,” Dzirasa said in a statement.
The report said that the constantly overflowing dumpster outside of the clinic, which is often filled with trash from neighbors and local businesses illegally disposing of their trash at the clinic, has created a “rat infestation outside the building.”
A fence around the dumpster was built in July 2021, but Dzirasa said illegal trash is now being dumped outside of the fence. Dzirasa wrote that the health department is in talks with Baltimore Police about patrolling the area.
The clinic also suffers from a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system that struggles to regulate temperatures, according to the report.
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In March 2021, one health department employee cited indoor temperatures of 90 degrees during the workday, according to the report.
Multiple employees of the clinic reported that rapid tests for HIV and hepatitis C were halted on more than one occasion because it was too hot in the clinic for accurate test results and proper test kit storage, according to the report.
In a statement, Dzirasa said the clinic has had rapid HIV and hepatitis C test kits expire because of fluctuating temperatures in the building.
The building needs a new HVAC system and Dzirasa said the department has allocated money to partially upgrade the system. The department also has an open work order to have air conditioning units installed in the clinic’s labs.
The report also made note of a leaking roof with water damage to multiple ceiling panels in the clinic.
Dzirasa said in a statement that the clinic needs a new roof, but that project is on hold until HVAC repairs are completed.
The Department of General Services is conducting a site visit to assess the building and the Baltimore City Department of Health is asking the city to either fully renovate the clinic or relocate the clinic, according to Dzirasa’s statement.