As part of a long-running lawsuit by prisoners at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise claiming that the health care they receive is so poor as to be unconstitutional, correctional health care expert Marc Stern issued a report describing the condition of the health care that he discovered during his investigation of the prison.
Cruel and Inhumane
The conditions that Stern found were, in his words, “inhumane.” Despite the fact that there have been some changes for the better made at the prison, the facts remain that much of the care that terminal and long-term inmates sometimes were not fed, mistakes made by nursing staff sometimes led to death, and in one case an inmate was not told that he most likely had cancer, until seven months later.
The health care for the prison, Corizon, and the Idaho Department of Correction say that they are “disappointed” with Stern’s findings, and are planning on preparing a response which will show that the care which the prisoners receive is both constitutional and meets proper standards of health care delivery.
Part of Lawsuit
A federal judge will examine the report as part of his decision whether or not to continue with the lawsuit or close it.
Emergency care was also highly problematic, according to court-appointed Stern’s report. It frequently happened that health care workers responded to emergencies without the necessary, essential, and routine equipment, such as a ventilator mask, a basic part of a resuscitation device. Prison guards told Stern that they often had to call the health care workers several times to get them to respond to emergencies. They also said that the nurses often only responded to phone calls, and frequently told the guards to have the inmates ask for care the next day.
In the most serious case which resulted in the death of the inmate, a nurse found a prisoner unconscious and hardly breathing. She did not take any of his other vital signs, and did not give him oxygen.
“Such evaluation was critically important at this point because it was highly likely the patient was not getting enough blood to his brain and required resuscitation,” Stern wrote in the report.
Stern says the nurse instead moved the patient to a health unit, and then assessed him, losing precious time. It turned out the inmate was having a heart attack, and the patient died.
“It is impossible to know if immediate application of life saving measures in the living unit would have saved this patient,” Stern wrote. “However, failure to provide these measures greatly reduced any chance for survival.”
Corizon took issue with Stern’s report, saying it was biased, incomplete, and based on anecdotal evidence of a few, isolated incidents.