At Public health clinic 17, which the District of Columbia leases for $67,000 a year, patients are cared for and the staff works in a windowless brick blockhouse where temperatures soar to 105 in the summer and plunge to 48 in the winter.
The staff also must cope with roaches, mice and overcrowding.
But this spring, when conditions outdoors have been comfortable, temperatures inside the clinic at 15th and G streets NE have already reached 94 degrees.
Over the years so many lab samples have been ruined by the heat, staff members said, that they now try to delay taking the samples until immediately before the messenger arrives to take them to the Department of Human Resources' central laboratory.
Temperatures in the clinic's smaller offices grow so intense, members of the staff testing hearing has had to be repaired on several occassions because of heat damage.
The clinic was one of 22 cited by the city's Department of Environmental Services recently for various shortcoming in equipment and sanitation. But staffers and patients say its problems far exceed those included in the environmental services report. And the Department of Human Resources itself does not disagree.
Unlike many of the city's public health facilities, the federally funded maternal and child health program is not housed in a converted school, office, or some other building never intended for medical use.
Rather, the two-story blockhouse at 15th and G streets NE was built in 1968 to city specifications to house the clinic, and is leased by the city from real estate developer George Basiliko at a cost of $67,000 a year.
Virgil McDonald, assistant director for adminstration of the city's Department of Human Resources, acknowledged there are serious problems at the facility, but said they have to do primarily with staff comfort.
Staff members, however, said the environmental extremes inside the clinic cause health problems as well - health problems for the poor for whom the clinic is the best and closest medical care.
"I can remember sitting here with my coat and gloves on, talking to patients," said a doctor. Clinic staff members asked that their names not be used for fear of reprisals by Department of Human Resources officials.
"Sometimes we don't undress (children and babies in the winter)," said the doctor,. "It's very hard to examine kids without undressing them."
On days when the temperature has gotten down to 48, the doctor continued, "we just look at the children. If they appear sick, we send them to another clinic where they can be examined.
"The temperature is usually so cold we can't undress the poor patients, or so hot you can't think."
Staff members at the northeast facility say the air circulation is so poor that patients and staff continually breath the same germ-laden air.
McDonald said the clinic does not have ducts for air conditioning and heat. Instead, he said, it has a system that is supposed to force hot or cold air between the ceiling and roof, and the air is then supposed to force its own way down through ceiling vents.
McDonald said he toured the clinic yesterday, as well as a clinic at 4130 Hunt P1. SE - also built for the city and leased back by Basiliko - and agreed that work needs to be done.
Air conditioninng crews began what they say will be three weeks of work at the northeast clinic yesterday, said MacDonald, who added that conditions have been improved at Hunt Place but still need work.
According to McDonald, Basiliko "is responsible" for improving conditions in the clinics, and if conditions don't improve, he said, "we won't renew our leases.'
Basiliko said he is working with District official to try to solve problems with the heating and cooling systems. However, he said, the building was designed according to city specifications. CAPTION: Picture, Temperature extremes cause problems inside health clinic at 15th and G, NE. By Fred Sweets - The Washington Post