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Administration Of Prisoner’s Medication By Prison Operator

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding a private prison operator, Serco New Zealand Limited (Serco) in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failing to provide a prisoner with his regular medications.

The man was transferred from another prison with a limited supply of medication for one of his health issues. He required twice-daily medication for this issue. A registered nurse undertook a Reception Assessment when he was transferred.

Over the course of two weeks, the man was not given his medication on three separate occasions: on the first occasion, the man’s wing went into lockdown, and he was not given his afternoon medication. Two days later, the man was seen by a GP at the prison, additional medication was prescribed, and a special authority number was sought so that the medication could be dispensed. The day after this request, the man was not given his morning medication because his supply had run out. A new supply arrived that afternoon. Just over a week later, the man was again not given his afternoon medication.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Allan found that a number of staff had failed to provide services to the man with reasonable care and skill. He considered that the Reception Health Triage was not sufficiently detailed or thorough; the medication planning was inadequate and meant that the correct medication was not available at the appropriate time; and on two occasions staff were not aware of their obligations when medication was missed, and did not escalate the non-administration of medication to a registered nurse.

"Prisoners do not have the same choices or ability to access health services as a person living in the community," said Mr Allan. "They are entirely reliant on the staff at the Health Service to assess, evaluate, monitor, and treat them appropriately. If some medication is not taken consistently, a resistance to the medication can develop. The development of a drug resistance would have significant long-term implications for [the man’s] health."

Mr Allan added that Serco has a responsibility to operate its health service in a manner that provides consumers with services of an appropriate standard. The standard of health care available to prisoners in a prison must be reasonably equivalent to the standard of health care available to the public.

The Deputy Commissioner recommended that Serco review the policy for Reception Health Triage and provide training on it, provide training on the policy for missed medication, and apologise to the man.

The full report for case 17HDC02092 is available on the HDC website.

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