08/19/11 — Health Department in need of repairs, board chairman says

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Health Department in need of repairs, board chairman says

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 19, 2011 1:46 PM

Carpeting in the third floor clinic area of the county Health Department is "deplorable" and presents a potential health hazard, the chairman of the Board of Health said Wednesday.

Dr. Rick Stovall said he had met with Evelyn Coley, director of nursing for the Health Department, Ken Stern, administrative officer at the Health Department, and Sue Farmer, director of facility services for Wayne County, on Aug. 8 to discuss housekeeping concerns that had been brought to the board's attention last month.

Board members had received an e-mail containing photos and allegations of possible infection control risks in the aging building -- including insects in bathroom stalls, an undetermined odor in the elevator and litter at the entrance area. The former Wayne County hospital is believed to have been built in the early 1900s, officials said.

"I'm happy to report that there's some improvements that have been seen," Stovall told the board. "However, when I did meet with them, I went on a little mini tour of the Health Department and was surprised to see the condition of the facility."

He directed his main concerns to worn out and stained carpeting in the dental and family clinic areas frequented by the community.

"It's in terrible shape," he said. "This is the Health Department. It's a health hazard. It definitely needs to be replaced."

Ms. Coley said a representative from the county was expected to investigate but that she was uncertain when, or whether, action might be taken.

"I think I asked at the time how long since (the carpet) had been replaced," Stovall said.

"Several years," Ms. Coley replied.

Board member Tommy Gibson said he was also concerned that such a situation exists at the Health Department.

"I know we have talked about this but what is the reason that we can't have our own housekeeping department?" he said, referencing an earlier conversation where the board learned that the county provides housekeeping and maintenance services for the Health Department buildings. "Is it money?"

Stovall said he believed that was part of the reason.

"Obviously it's not working," Gibson said.

Stovall suggested lack of staffing may be a contributing factor, and Stern explained that the Health Department actually entails about 88,000 square feet at its four properties, which also include the WIC office and Wayne Uplift.

"We also talked about the possibility of going to a staggered schedule," Stovall said, since the Health Department is open four days a week, 10 hours a day. "Patients are here all day. (The county) felt like if they could be here when people are not here, they could clean up better."

Board member Dr. Kim Larson said any recommendation for new carpeting could be delayed since there are plans to relocate the Health Department to a new building in the future.

"That's part of it," Stern said. "Sue Farmer said the county manager does not want to commit to new funds for this building since we're looking at three to five years, the Health Department will not even own this building."

Several board members scoffed at the rationale, saying the move had been in the offing for years and is still no closer to coming to fruition. Board member Steve Smith likened the reasoning to saying that "you're not going to do any repairs on your car because you plan to buy a new one in a few years."

Board member Ira Thigpen said he didn't want to discourage Stovall but the notion of a new Health Department building has been bandied about since Thigpen joined the board nine years ago.

"That's about as crazy as I have heard in my life," Thigpen said. "It won't do any good because I have done it when I was in your position but if you need someone to go with you (to the county) I will be glad to go."

Stovall suggested the county may not be fully aware of the severity of the situation, which he later said had less to do with unsightly stains on the carpet and more to do with potential health risks for those with respiratory problems.

"It's a hazard at this point," he said. "I appreciate them looking at a new facility but something needs to be done. It's in dire need."

"We don't have a resolution," replied Ms. Coley. "We just presented the issues. We don't know how it will be resolved."

Mrs. Larson recommended the matter be continued for discussion at next month's meeting.

After the meeting adjourned, she, along with Stovall and board member Dr. Sandra McCullen, were taken through the clinic areas by Ms. Coley to see areas of concern.