Grady seeks solution to clinic building problem

A recent government inspection of Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital found some building improvements needed to be made at the facility, including an upgrade of its fire sprinklers.

Blocks away from the main campus, a Grady mental health outpatient clinic on Auburn Avenue has experienced its own structural problems: an often malfunctioning system for air conditioning and heating.

Grady leases the space for the adult mental health clinic, which is located in the historic “Sweet Auburn’’ district, famous as a hub of African-American business and cultural life. The hospital said this week in a statement to GHN that it has been working with the building’s landlord to resolve the problems.

‘‘We are currently exploring a long-term solution for the problems,’’ the statement said. Grady declined a GHN request for an interview on the situation.

The building problems Grady faces are symptomatic of the financial challenges facing the state’s largest safety-net hospital. The Grady system, suffering from reduced local and federal funding, is facing a shortfall of $20 million this year, and has closed two neighborhood clinics and cut 200 jobs.

The mental health clinic, called the Auburn Avenue Recovery Center, is housed in the Odd Fellows Building, built 100 years ago by the Atlanta Chapter of the Grand Order of Odd Fellows. The fraternal organization was founded to support the black business community during the era when other Odd Fellows groups discriminated against nonwhites.

An assistant property manager for the building said this week that “we’ve gone to a considerable expense to satisfy Grady.’’

Selma Lee, the assistant property manager, added, “We’re doing whatever we can.’’ But he said that while a compressor malfunctioned during the summer, “All the units right now are just fine.’’

“We have an old building, and they [Grady] knew it was an old building when they moved into it,’’ he said.

A mental health consumer group said it was aware of the HVAC problem.

“It’s unfortunate for all concerned, especially adult consumers of mental health services,’’ said Sherry Jenkins Tucker, executive director of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network.

“Grady’s physical plant is generally not good,’’ she said. “I wish our [health care] system could better fund Grady so the people who are in such need of services could get them in a more user-friendly way.’’

The inspection of Grady followed the September death of a patient who fell from an 11th-floor window. The inspection found that while the physical plant needed upgrades, its problems were not putting any patients at risk.