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City-Run Health Clinic In Druid Heights Flagged For Dead Rodents, Substandard Conditions In New OIG Report

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Dead rodents, water leaks and HVAC problems that could potentially spoil medical tests are just some of the problems plaguing the Baltimore City Health Department's Druid Sexual Health Clinic in Druid Heights, according to a new report by the Office of the Inspector General.

During an investigation dating back to December 2020, inspectors observed dead rodents and insects in a supply room, damaged or missing ceiling tiles likely caused by water leaks, a damaged access door, and an outside dumpster that often fills up with trash from nearby residents and businesses.

While the health department contracted a pest control company to remove old traps and install new ones, a janitorial company that cleans the building refuses to remove dead rodents, the report said.

The heating and cooling system in the building at 1515 W. North Ave., does not properly regulate the temperature. One health department employee reported an indoor temperature of 90 degrees in March 2021, the report said. Multiple workers told the OIG that rapid tests for HIV and hepatitis C had to be halted on some days due to the heat.

"Relevant correspondence obtained by the OIG suggested extreme temperatures could cause inaccurate test results or otherwise impact proper storage of the test kits," the report said, noting that manufacturers for rapid HIV tests and rapid hepatitis C tests suggest keeping samples in storage between 35 degrees and 80 degrees and between 36 degrees and 86 degrees, respectively.

Inspectors on a site visit noticed several rapid tests that were marked "expired."

The conditions are potentially violations of Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations and agreements between the city and labor unions to "provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace," the report said.

In a response letter, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa acknowledged the "infrastructure and operational challenges" of the building and said the agency is working with the Department of General Services to fix them when necessary, "which is often."

The facility has been in use for approximately six decades, according to Dzirasa.

"The building is old, deteriorating, and not up to code," she wrote. "The temperature issue is longstanding due to the age of the HVAC system."

Dzirasa confirmed the rapid tests marked "expired" were caused by the building's temperature but said they are being kept for staff training.

In December 2020, the boiler failed and there was no heat for several days, leading to the installation of a temporary unit, Dzirasa said. The agency has allocated $150,000 for the a partial HVAC system upgrade.

Dzirasa also said pest control at the building has lapsed due to "delays in payments" to the contractor that's been hired to service the building every two weeks.

The Department of General Services is going to conduct a site visit to "also identify and eliminate potential rodent points of entry," the health commissioner wrote. Additionally, the Department of General Services recently installed a fence around the health clinic's dumpster to prevent illegal dumping.

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