Medical Care in Prison

12/28/20

Recently Crosscut.com did an exposé about the WA DOC Medical. They found that the number one cause of death of incarcerated people in Washington State is preventable .medical complications and neglect. As someone who lives in a Washington prison, I find this kinda sorta just a little totally friggin’ scary. It is a known thing that getting medical care is really hard in the WA DOC, but I didn’t realize that it is actually harder than I had previously thought.

People do not get sent to a hospital until they have a foot in the grave. A person has to be unresponsive, bleeding out, or at a similar level of crisis before the DOC considers calling an ambulance. Before that point, a person has to have difficulty breathing, be bleeding fairly badly, be unable to stand/walk or have flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms to declare a medical emergency for immediate medical attention from DOC medical. Otherwise we are told to send a kite.

The trouble is… sending a kite doesn’t exactly work. I can send medical all the kites I want, and they will respond to most of them by saying “you will be scheduled.” However, they steadfastly refuse to actually tell us when a appointment will be. Which means if there is a mistake on the callout we won’t know that we’ve missed an appointment and have to get rescheduled.

I’ve spent over a year trying to get a meds adjustment to my HRT. The issue I am having is that Spiro is causing me to have an elevated resting heart rate. This has been well documented. However, instead of just changing my script, they are having me do orthostatic blood pressure and pulse checks every day for a week, again.

My problem is fairly straight forward and honestly, could have been handled with a single, 15 minute appointment. Instead, I have had 9 different appointments over the course of the last year where I have had to reexplain this every single time.

People with thornier issues are at even more of a disadvantage. A friend of mine with diabetes just had an eye removed because the DOC will not do preventative care. He’s already lost 2 toes. Another with a catheter had to have emergency surgery last year because they won’t give him new catheter supplies or do preventative care to keep him from getting bladder infections.

These are just the tip of the iceberg and represent the problems which existed pre-COVID. But now… It is terrifyingly bad. If we don’t get the vaccine soon for medical to have the capacity for normal operations, it’s going to just keep getting worse.

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