County Health Board will eye cleaning concerns
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 7, 2011 12:24 AM
Insects in bathroom stalls. An undetermined odor in the elevator. Cigarette butts and chewing gum littering the entrance to the county Health Department.
There are many housekeeping challenges at the building that houses services catering to the county's health needs, officials say.
Not to mention possible infection control risks, said Evelyn Coley, director of nursing at the Health Department, at the recent Board of Health meeting where she filled in for James Roosen, health director.
"We have had some major household issues in the building for quite some time," she said. "Mr. Roosen has been working diligently to try to get things changed ... trying to work with the hygiene of the building."
Ms. Coley addressed several concerns brought up at the meeting by board members, following receipt of an e-mail containing photos of problem areas in the building.
"Carpets are in pretty bad shape, cleaning solution they had won't clean the carpets,' she said. "Some areas will be taken up and replaced."
One glaring reason such projects are delayed at the aging building -- believed to have been built in the early 1900s and former home to the Wayne County hospital -- is its anticipated move to a newer location. But county officials say that probably won't happen until three to five years from now.
In the meantime, Ms. Coley said, there has been no announcement about available funding to address some of the pressing maintenance needs.
"We have identified some safety issues, like torn carpet that's dangerous to the staff," she said. "But it's an ongoing process."
In the elevator, she added, a deodorizer was put up but that might not be sufficient, especially for patrons with asthma.
"It sounds like you have started working on it and it needs to be followed up on," board member Dr. Kim Larson said.
"One of the main areas where there's a problem (is) we have clinics, ongoing clinics so there's only like an hour where they can get into the area," Ms. Coley said. "We thought that Friday would be the day for major housekeeping, but we haven't seen evidence of that. ...
"The main thing is there's nobody to come around and supervise part of it."
Board member Ira Thigpen questioned the chain of command overseeing maintenance at the Health Department.
"It sounds to me like nobody answers to anybody in this building," he said.
Questions were raised about how housekeeping services are provided, whether in-house, through the county or privately contracted.
Roosen said earlier this week that "right now it's a very politically sensitive area," referring all questions to Sue Farmer, director of facility services for Wayne County.
"We did have a discussion (with the county) and we did have a little tour of the building," he said. "We did talk about how to clean, how we could partner better."
Ms. Farmer said that county staff is responsible for maintenance and housekeeping at the Health Department.
"They're county employees under a different department heading," she said. "We follow both Health Department guidelines that they write as well as we have some outside training from hospital staff.
"We address safety issues as the staff and the clients make us aware of persistent things that need attention."
She said there will be things that can't be corrected immediately, such as some capital improvements, because of the eventual move.
"Some things that may be unattractive to the staff at the moment, it's not from a non-cleanliness standpoint," she said. "It's just old and worn."
Roosen refrained from comment, except to say, "The one thing I would try to do is get better disinfection in place."
Board member Tommy Gibson expressed similar concerns at the board meeting.
"As big as this building is, to keep it in a clean, sanitary manner -- it should be treated like a hospital," he said.
Ms. Farmer said the county does make efforts to address such issues.
"Cleanliness is a joint effort with us, the Health Depart-ment, DSS (Department of Social Services) as well as facilities maintenance," she said. "It's an ongoing issue. It's an aging building that we're trying to maintain ... knowing that we're trying to pinch pennies and not put an overt amount of money into a building that we're moving from.
"We base decisions on longevity and best spending of money."
Dr. Rick Stovall, board chairman, requested the subject be put on the agenda for further discussion at the August meeting.