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Baltimore City

Baltimore inspector general finds long-dead rat, insects and other persistent problems at city-run sexual health clinic

A dead rodent in a basement in December 2020, left, and potentially the same rodent in July 2022, right, are shown in this image taken from the Baltimore City Office of the Inspector General report. The report details unsanitary work conditions and maintenance problems observed at the Baltimore City Health Department’s Druid Heights sexual health clinic.

A dead rat carcass that languished untouched for two years, an electrical panel room full of cardboard and visible rodent droppings were just a few of the problems the Baltimore City inspector general found at a city-run sexual health clinic, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Baltimore Office of the Inspector General previously made a site visit in December 2020 to the Druid Heights clinic, which provides testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

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During the previous visit, inspectors found rodents in the basement, water leaks, a dumpster outside overflowing with trash, and problems with the building’s HVAC system that interfered with temperature-sensitive medical tests for HIV and hepatitis C, according to the September 2021 report.

Maintenance problems in the women's room at the Druid Heights sexual health clinic are pictured.

The Baltimore City watchdog also raised concerns about the clinic’s compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations and memorandums of understanding with city employees’ labor unions.

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An anonymous complaint from May alleged that those conditions hadn’t been fixed. In a report Tuesday, Baltimore City Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming wrote that despite some improvements, sanitary, security and general maintenance problems persisted at the clinic this summer.

One of the most glaring issues during a July site visit was the dead rat spotted in a staff break room that doubles as a supply closet.

“The OIG found a rodent in the basement that appears to be the same deceased rodent observed in the same spot during the December 2020 visit,” the report said.

Potential rodent droppings are shown in these images.

Inspectors observed rodent droppings in one hallway and dead insects throughout the health facility.

Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said in a Sept. 13 response letter that the health department’s contracted janitorial vendor had refused to remove dead rodents.

“The scope of services for the janitorial contract has been revised to help resolve this issue,” Dzirasa wrote. “We are waiting for this new contract to begin.”

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In her response to last year’s report, Dzirasa also mentioned the janitorial company’s refusal to remove the dead rats. The health department contracted a separate pest control company to set up and remove traps.

“Regrettably, due to delays in payments to the contracted pest control vendor, lapses in pest control services at the site continue,” Dzirasa said in her 2021 statement.

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Insects are shown in the lobby area, stairwell, and break room.

The inspector general’s recent report identified unsecured doors and a lack of working security cameras as security vulnerabilities and called an electrical panel room filled with cardboard boxes a “potential violation of the city’s fire code.”

During a June visit, federal inspectors from OSHA raised concerns about how sharps were stored, a plan for exposures and access to needles with safety covers, the report said. OSHA opened an inspection into a Baltimore City Health Department facility July 6, according to the agency’s public database.

In her response letter, Dzirasa referred to a site visit from Maryland Occupational Health and Safety, a division of the state Department of Labor. She said steps had been taken to abate safety issues and said the health department had made “significant progress with all citations.”

Not all the news was bad. The clinic’s temperature control system was functioning and a fence installed around the dumpster appeared to prevent it from being overfilled, the inspector general’s report said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ngan Ho contributed to this article.


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