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Inadequate Medical Care Of A Prison Inmate

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding the Department of Corrections in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failing to provide necessary medical treatment to a woman.

The woman had diabetes and suffered from painful conditions including respiratory difficulties. Corrections failed to provide the woman with pain medication in accordance with her prescription, and failed to prioritise a consultation with a doctor so more medication could be prescribed and her conditions and medication could be assessed and managed. The woman was admitted to hospital with a viral exacerbation of asthma.

Mr Allan found there had been multiple significant departures from accepted practice with regard to safe medication administration and the woman’s respiratory care while at the Corrections facility. He was also critical of very poor documentation which he said created a real risk that the quality and continuity of care would be compromised. He considered that Corrections had failed to provide the woman with a standard of health care that was reasonably equivalent to that available to the public.

"A person being held in custody does not have the same choices or ability to access health services as a person living in the community. People in custody do not have direct access to over-the-counter medications or to a GP, and are entirely reliant on prison staff to assess, evaluate, monitor, and treat them appropriately," Mr Allan said.

Mr Allan recommended that Corrections apologise to the woman, which it has done. He made a number of other recommendations including an independent external review of the clinical services at the facility and the development of policies and procedures to guide staff on (a) assessing prisoners who seek health treatment in a timely manner; (b) assessing newly arrived prisoners in a timely manner; and (c) seeking patient clinical notes from a prisoner’s previous doctor in a timely manner.

The case has been referred to the Director of Proceedings to decide whether any legal proceedings should be taken against Corrections.

The full report for case 16HDC01922 is available on the HDC website.

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