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Dept. of Health employees say work conditions are unhealthy

Posted at 6:20 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 10:54:20-04

Mice, snakes and the lack of safe drinking water: those are some of the conditions Maryland Department of Health workers say they face every day.

"They irony of it being the Department of Health, more like the department of illness or sickness," employee Nirvana Spriggs said. 

State employees rallied outside the Department of Health headquarters in Baltimore with the union AFT Healthcare-Maryland, calling for safer working conditions. 

"I’ve seen colleagues get sick and struggle with respiratory problems while doing their jobs serving the state of Maryland. This is something that affects everyone. No matter what your job is, everyone who works in this building is facing these conditions together. We’ve all seen the mice and the snake. We’ve seen ceiling disintegrating, dropping dust into our workspaces. We all deal with the lack of water and air quality here on a daily basis," employee Ben Wolff said. 

The Maryland Department of General Services say they regularly maintain the building and resolve issues when they occur. In a statement, spokesman Nick Cavey said on behalf of the Hogan administration that mold and air quality testing was conducted last month by a professional contractor and results indicated that mold was not present and the air quality was normal.

Still, some say they have gotten sick from a toxic environment. 

"Especially when you come in from a weekend and you're feeling better at home, you come on Monday. By Tuesday, you're coughing, sneezing. It's not a good situation," employee Susan Davis said. 

"Our skin, we are being bit up. It’s something in the environment. We feel like we are under attack," Spriggs said. 

Spriggs says she isn't just speaking for herself. She, like many co-workers, is pregnant. 

"Because I am with child, it’s always on my mind. I feel like if it was me, then I’m like okay it's fine, but now I have to think about what’s happening to my unborn child," Spriggs said. 

They are calling on state entities to address their concerns. Delegate Nick Mosby said he will bring this up in the coming session. 

"We understand and know that we stand here today with a dilapidated, poor health, failing building because politics got in the way of redevelopment," Mosby said.

A State Center  redevelopment project has been in the works for years. In December of 2016, the Board of Public Works voted to cancel it after the Hogan administration filed a lawsuit against the developer. The $1.5 billion plan included housing, retail space, and office complex and a new Department of Health building. Gov. Larry Hogan said it didn't make economic sense and wanted a new plan. The project is still up in the air. 

"How can we have a health care building that’s made and bought on the foundation of health be unhealthy for the workers in it? It’s completely unacceptable," Mosby said.