Dept Public Health Ignored Complaint About Gosnell Storing Remains in Fridge

Grand jury testimony revealed how the Department of Health received an anonymous complaint in August 2003 against Kermit Gosnell’s clinic about aborted fetuses stored in an employee refrigerator. One employee in the department tried to take action but was snubbed by her superiors.

Mandi Davis, a sanitation specialist in the environmental engineering section, told her colleague Ken Gruen and then-Assistant Health Commissioner Izzat Melhem about the complaint. Knowing the severity of the situation, Davis demanded a visit to the clinic be conducted. Current Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz told the grand jury notes on her memo said a visit took place, but that is the only evidence that supported the claim.

The city health department, however, could not produce any report of that site visit. Nor is there evidence that the department took any action against Gosnell for his dangerous handling of medical waste or for his failure to have an approved infectious waste plan, as is required by the city Health Code.

A year later, Gosnell still had no approved disposal plan. On March 28, 2004, Davis sent Gosnell a letter stating that a “plan” he had submitted was “incomplete.” In fact, it was completely blank, except for the name and address of the clinic, some contact information, and an indication that it was a medical facility. On May 3, 2004, Davis sent another letter. This one was a form letter. Davis wrote:

Several years ago all Doctors practicing in Philadelphia received a letter from former Health Commissioner Estelle B. Richman explaining the need for the Department to have an infectious waste handling and disposal plan from your practice. The Commissioner’s letter explained the necessity for infectious waste to be properly containerized, stored, transported, and disposed in a manner to preclude any hazard to you, your staff, and patients, the community or the environment.

The letter noted that the city had never received a plan or a fee from the clinic.

On May 7, 2004, a city health department inspector was sent to the clinic. His report stated that proper labels were missing from areas where waste was stored; that red bag containers for infectious waste were not lidded; that marked boxes of infectious waste were sitting on the basement floor – not raised as they should be; that red bags for pick-up were not properly stored in the basement; and that the clinic did not provide a contract with a disposal company.

Gosnell produced a disposal contract but he did not pay the fee and the city did not approve the plan. Yet no one bothered to punish him for not properly disposing of the bodies. The grand jury saw the facility in 2010, and there were still bodies and body parts in the basement.

The grand jury said Commissioner Schwarz tried to explain why the city never enforced their health laws but were not happy with his answer. Schwarz told them the laws existed mainly to generate revenue; it had nothing to do with the environment or well-being of the public. 

But Gosnell never paid a fee. Not once. Even if Schwarz’s explanation is true, it does not make sense because Gosnell never had to pay for his code violations.

Schwarz claimed the department would have inspected Gosnell's office if there was a complaint. This is not true: they did receive a complaint, and only one employee took it seriously. No one could provide the grand jury with a suitable reason for why Gosnell's office wasn't inspected. 


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