Mummified rat in health clinic: OIG finds substandard conditions persist at West Baltimore facility

Mummified rat in health clinic: OIG finds substandard conditions persist at West Baltimore facility

Symbol of neglect at the city-run health clinic on North and Pennsylvania Avenue, a rat found dead in December 2020 remained undisturbed and embalmed at a follow-up site visit 18 months later, the Baltimore inspector general noted in a report released today.

IG Isabel Mercedes Cumming wrote in the summary report that many of the same sanitation and maintenance issues — dead rodents in the basement, fallen tiles in the ceiling, water leaks and broken toilet pipes — were not corrected in the Druid Health District building this summer.

Staff visited the clinic on July 14 in response to an anonymous complaint and an inspection in June by the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that found no easy access to safety needles, and sharps disposal containers not properly secured to the wall.

“IGO notes for rodents and pests, security and other general maintenance work [issues] The report concluded that during a site visit in July 2022, concerns remained about the City of Baltimore Health Department’s compliance with OSHA regulations and employee health and safety requirements pursuant to the city’s Memorandum of Understanding with labor unions.”

The women’s public bathroom was found with a torn soap dispenser, a missing light switch and a very broken toilet. (OIG Report 22-0052-I)

LAX for safety and security

The health clinic serves a virtually black community, providing testing, diagnosis, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The city’s family planning and dental clinic also operates on the premises.

OIG inspectors noted that rodent droppings were found in the hallway, cockroaches and other insects were infested in the building, many outside doors were not locked and the building’s digital video recorder did not work.

The leading health clinic in Black Baltimore is in dire straits (9/30/21)

They dealt privately with the Pyxis Room, where medical supplies are inventoried and restocked.

In response to the first OIG report, Baltimore Health Commissioner Laetitia Dzirasa promised last year to put Pyxis machines under camera surveillance, telling Cumming, “We will work to implement your recommendation to install security cameras to address discrepancies that may arise.”

But during her July visit, no cameras were found in Pyxis’ room.

Pyxis room where the clinic's medication dispensing system is maintained without any security cameras and other stock controls.  (OIG 22-0052-I Case)

Pyxis drug dispensing system found without any security cameras. (OIG 22-0052-I Case)

Not part of the contract

In a memo released today, Dzirasa said that security cameras were not installed in the room because medicines stored there previously had been “removed and placed in a secure area,” while acknowledging that the public security system was not complete.

She blamed the discovery of the dead rodents on the contract the Department of General Services (DGS) had with the cleaning company.

Health Commissioner Dzirasa says picking up dead mice was not part of the custodial contract. “We are waiting for the start of the new contract.”

Dzirasa confirmed that the company insisted that “removing dead rodents is outside the scope of its services.” The contract has been revised, but not yet effective.

“We are waiting for this new contract to start. The DGS has been on site to check and eliminate potential rodent entry points.”

The building was named for the first African American to be hired for a full-time job by the Baltimore Department of Health.  (Mark Reuter)

Druid Health Clinic, located at 1515 West North Avenue, is named after Dr. H. Maceo Williams, the first African American to be hired to a full-time job by the Baltimore Department of Health. (Mark Reuter)

Today’s report noted several improvements to the building since the December 2020 inspection.

“The thermostat at the Druid Sexual Health Clinic appears to be regulating the temperature inside the work environment properly, and a new fence appears to have reduced the garbage flowing into the facility’s trash can,” Cumming wrote.

Consultant only

Dzirasa said the tiles missing in the building’s roofs “will be replaced once DGS receives the order for tiles awaiting pickup” and her office “is aware of the ongoing alarm issue on the emergency back door.” For now, employees have been told that they “have to close the doors behind them until the doors close,” she said.

Today’s Office of the Inspector General’s advisory report and recommendations for building improvements will need support from Mayor Brandon Scott and City Manager Christopher Shorter.

Shorter took over in January 2021 as city manager, a new position designed to improve the efficiency and coordination of health, public services and other city agencies.

Neither Scott nor Shorter responded to the OIG’s report, which left the last word on Gezirasa:

“We take the safety and health of our employees and customers very seriously. We continue to work through unsanitary conditions and maintenance issues identified in the report and others as reported,” noting that “our facilities manager meets with employees in this building every two weeks to discuss and work to resolve any Concerns about the building.”

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