The Director of the District of Columbia's Department of Human Resources said yesterday that if the city's public health clinics have been using expired medication, it's inexcusable."
At the same time Dr. Raymond Standard, who directs the public health system under DHR, blamed problems in the clinics' pharmacies on the fact that the position of chief pharmacist for the public health system has "been vacant for about nine months."
Standard and DHR director Albert P. Russo made their statements in further response to a report in Sunday's editions of The Washington Post that a team of city inspectors had found past-dated medications in the clinics, and had been told that past-dated vacines were being given to children.
Both Standard and Russo criticized the report, prepared by the environmental health section of the city's Department of Environmental Services, because it does not always say specifically which problems are to be found in which clinics.
Standard said that he has contacted Enviromental Services and been promised more specific information on each of the 22 clinics, which serve about 60,000 lower-income city residents a year.
The city's chief health officer said that Batlus Walker, director of environmental health, had "called my office and said he had the staff time available and said he would have the study done if I wished to have it done.
"I concurred," said Standard," and said I would like the study done for management purposes . . .
"The things that needed to be done would have been done" without the publicity, Standard said.
Walker could not be reached to confirm Standard's comments.
Standard said that having the inspection done was "like a private company that has an auditing firm come in to go over its books. . . . If there had been any attempt to cover up we certainly had time to notify each clinic that the inspectors were coming," but didn't do so, he said.
The inspectors found, among other things, that:
More than three-quarters of the clinics had infestations of cockroaches and mice;
Almost one-third of the clinics had problems sterillizing medical instruments;
None of the clinics had regular housecleaning procedures;
All the clinics had fire-safety violations, including some with blocked exits;
The inspectors reported finding drugs in the clinics shipped from the main DHR warehouse five and six years ago. They also reported that unauthorized personnel were dispensing medications, and that some drugs were being kept in improperly labeled containers.
Standard said he was ordering the institution of a system to see that all drugs are pulled from the shelves by their expiration dates.