Prison medical system is in trouble
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio prison inmates face long waits for
physicians who often are overworked and sometimes have
histories of disciplinary
problems, a newspaper and television station's investigation
At least two inmates died minutes after being released from
and others have gone days without receiving prescribed
medicines, according to
the three-month investigation reported Sunday by The Columbus
Some doctors working in the prison system have criminal
records or have
previous license suspensions or other discipline from the
state Medical Board,
according to an analysis of thousands of pages of corrections
"We don't profess that we're perfect," said Reginald
Wilkinson, director of
the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "But
we're also very cognizant
of the fact that if there are quirks ... we want to fix
Wilkinson said problems uncovered by the investigation are
don't represent the entire system that provides medical care
to more than
45,000 inmates in 33 prisons.
Inmate complaints about medical care are the type most
frequently received by
the Cincinnati-based Prison Reform Advocacy Center.
"This is a pathetic situation in Ohio and it needs to be
said Alphonse Gerhardstein, the center's president.
Some prisoners have waited three to 16 months for operations,
and the waiting
list for surgery once grew to 100 inmates, the investigation
At the "supermax" Ohio State Penitentiary in
Youngstown, one inmate waited
five days for heart surgery while another waited 16 months for
an operation to
remove a lump on his shoulder that grew the size of a billiard
In late 2001, inmates at the Lima Correctional Institution
went up to five
days without prescriptions during two weeks of staffing
problems at the prison
In the past three years, the state has paid five
wrongful-death claims filed
by relatives of deceased inmates, and more lawsuits are
Prisons spokeswoman Andrea Dean compared the death rate in the
care system to that in a conventional hospital. Through the
end of July, 56
Ohio inmates have died. There were 118 prison deaths in 2002
and 118 in 2001,
less than 3 percent of the inmate population.
The investigation was sparked by the death of Sean
19-year-old inmate at the Pickaway Correctional Institution
who died of a drug-resistant
staphylococcus infection on April 29.
The Toledo native was nearing his release date in an 11-month
cashing forged checks worth less than $800.
Despite an outbreak of at last 26 staph cases over two months,
did not take samples from the wounds to grow the bacteria and
strain. If they had, they would have known penicillin -- used
Schwamberger -- wouldn't work against that type of staph.
Such tests are now standard procedure in the prisons.
"He should have been protected by the state instead of
allowed to lay there
and get sicker and sicker and sicker," said his father,
Rojelio Garcia, 38, died in July 2001 of a heart attack after
for chest pains and released from the infirmary at the
Correctional Facility near Lucasville. Garcia was found
unconscious 10 minutes after
returning to his cell.
Kenneth Humphrey, 42, was told he had heartburn after
complaining of chest
pains March 1 at the Southeastern Correctional Institution in
collapsed 25 minutes after leaving the infirmary and was
pronounced dead of an
irregular heartbeat 47 minutes later.
Also, inmates often are treated by medical professionals with
a history of
"We do have to tolerate a different standard sometimes
because it's hard to
get people to come and work in the prisons to provide medical
care," Dean said.
At Pickaway, Schwamberger was under the care of 66-year-old
Dr. Adil Yamour,
who had lost his job of eight years at the London Correctional
after supervisors complained he was experiencing
Yamour, a native of Iraq who lives in Washington Court House,
said he was
discriminated against and provided good care despite having to
see 70 to 90
inmates in an eight-hour shift.
Another doctor worked at a prison in Lorain and the "supermax"
while 35 criminal charges were pending against him. Dr. Ayman
Kader was later
convicted on 10 counts related to writing bogus amphetamine
his medical license was permanently revoked.
Dean said the prisons failed to do required criminal records
Wilkinson said Ohio's prison system goes beyond requirements
in the law for
inmate health care, especially in its partnership with Ohio
The state pays the campus hospital $26 million a year to treat
inmates in its
Corrections Medical Center, which also has a hospice for
The Pickaway prison has a nursing home for those requiring
skilled care such
"We are a model for the rest of the nation from a number
of points of view," Wilkinson said.
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