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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Healthcare Nightmare For Virginia Inmates

A jail sentence can be a death sentence
An article in the December 10, 2016, Virginian-Pilot highlights a pattern of serious medical neglect and malpractice at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, one of two women's prisons in the state. 

This resulted in a 2012 lawsuit on behalf of female inmates for "failure to meet the minimum standards of medical care for inmates," according to the Pilot. The article goes on to report that a settlement was reached in which an outside monitor was appointed to oversee its healthcare services and "to bring the level of care up to the bare minimum a state must provide for those it imprisons," but added that "Fluvanna has yet to meet that standard, according to the independent monitor’s most recent report."

Perhaps the saddest example of that kind of neglect has to do with an inmate serving time on drug charges who had colostomy surgery due to a cancerous mass in her bowels. She went through enormous pain due to her condition and her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but was given inadequate pain medication and had to wait five months to return to U.Va. for a follow-up appointment in July of 2014, By that time she had developed a severe blood infection that had spread throughout her body, and "her tumor had grown through her buttocks and was continuing to enlarge outside her body".

Here's a link to the entire story: http://pilotonline.com/news/government/politics/virginia/at-fluvanna-correctional-center-for-women-horror-story-after-horror/article_9096368d-54ce-5018-beb7-bea8732e8965.html

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is investigating the Hampton Roads Regional Jail for recent cases of deaths resulting from lack of appropriate care for inmates suffering from mental and physical conditions.

The most well publicized of these was the case of a mentally disabled 24-year-old who died in August 2015 after losing 46 pounds over 101 days at the jail. His crime? Shoplifting $5 worth of snacks at a convenience store.

According to a piece in the Richmond Times, two other Hampton Roads inmates died recently after their requests for emergency medical care were denied.

Closer home, both the Rockingham/Harrisonburg and Middle River Regional Jails have received numerous complaints about inadequate medical and mental health care, though some recent steps have been taken to respond to persistent family and inmate complaints. These include long waits for receiving medical attention, unaffordable co-pays for medical and dental services that are available, and the use of outdated formularies for medications rather than inmates having access to the drugs prescribed by their doctors. 

One of the cases that has recently come to light at the RHRJ has been that of a woman who complained of severe pain for months and was later found to have advanced Stage IV cancer which should have been aggressively treated months earlier. Also, our local jail still defends its frequent use of a restraint chair or the isolated padded cell for "medical reasons" in some cases where an inmate is suicidally depressed.

The Middle River Jail, which houses over a hundred inmates from our area, was the subject of an extensive investigation by Channel 29 last year which cited a case of a woman dying in an isolated cell from lack of proper care, along with other cases of neglect and malpractice that resulted in painful and untimely deaths due to cancer.

It should be noted that the Middle River Jail has underspent its annual healthcare budgets by tens of thousands each year for the past decade, using the money saved in its general budget or returning some of it to the localities it serves. Here's a link for more information 
The Middle River Regional Jail Authority is currently under pressure to consider accreditation for its medical services through the National Commission On Correctional Healthcare. This could not be accomplished without cost, but could save tons of taxpayer money in helping avoid expensive lawsuits. It has also just received a $536,000 state grant for improving its mental health services, an encouraging development.

Please express your concerns to your City Council members or members of the Board of Supervisors.
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