BALTIMORE — The latest report from the Baltimore City Inspector General sheds light on the extreme unsanitary conditions at the Druid Sexual Health Clinic.
During a visit to their North Avenue location, the Inspector General noted a foul odor before discovering dead rodents and bugs that were left for months in the basement supply room and stairwell.
The Inspector General wrote the findings potentially violate Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations and the Memorandums of Understanding the City has with its labor unions, raising health and safety concerns for those who work at the clinic.
Other problems highlighted in the report include leaky ceilings and pipes along with a malfunctioning HVAC system, causing ventilation issues.
At times, the lack of air and high temperatures have forced the facility to pause rapid testing for HIV and Hepatitis C.
Such conditions could mean inaccurate STD test results, because rapid kits are required to be stored in certain room temperatures.
The Inspector General during the visit found boxes of expired tests, for which Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, later confirmed was due to "temperature fluctuations."
Apparently the findings came as no surprise to Dzirasa who in a letter admitted to being "aware of the infrastructure and operational challenges and concerns raised by staff for some time."
She also acknowledged that leaks in the ceilings could endanger files and other supplies stored in the building.
Turns out the building has been operating as a health clinic for 60-years.
According to Dzirasa, little effort and resources have been made available towards building upkeep despite its impact on clients and staff.
"The building is old, deteriorating, and not up to code. The temperature issue is longstanding due to the age of the HVAC system," wrote Dzirasa. "In December 2020, there was no heat for several days as the boiler finally gave out. A temporary boiler was installed, and we continue to operate with the temporary boiler in place while a custom boiler is built, which ultimately may not be a long-term solution. Temperature fluctuations within the building have continued and impact our staff, clients and community partners," Dzirasa continued.
Improvements however continue to be bottle necked.
Installation of a new boiler is being held up by an issue with the vendor's city business license.
The building also needs a full HVAC system replacement, but so far the Health Department has requested only $150,000 to be allocated for design fees for just a partial HVAC system upgrade.
Then there's an urgent need for a new roof, which Dzirasa says is also on hold up until the HVAC system is replaced.
"The roof replacement project is on hold until after the HVAC project is completed as there is potential for the installation of the roof top HVAC units to cause damage to the new roof. It is also on hold pending final decisions related to potential [Federal American Rescue Plan] funding to support [Druid Sexual Health Clinic] renovation versus new build."
As for how to stop the rats, Dzirasa says a pest control vendor is supposed to come out to the clinic every two-weeks to remove old traps and put down new ones.
Yet the city apparently delayed payments to the company which caused lapses in service.
"Regrettably, due to delays in payments to the contracted pest control vendor, lapses in pest control services at the site continue," wrote Dzirasa.
That leaves it up to the janitors to remove the dead rodents, who refuse to do so because they say it is "outside of their scope of services with the City."
Last but not least, residents and neighbors have long overflowed the dumpster belonging to the clinic with trash, leading to increased rodent infestation.
The clinic tried a couple things to address those problems. 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 trash is now being dumped outside the fence on the sidewalk alongside the building.
Dzirasa said there is talk of hiring roving security guards or installing cameras to help decrease the amount of trash piling up.
In the meantime, the long list of problems at the Druid Sexual Health Clinic persist as the city figures out future plans for the building and how to fund it.