27 May 2019

Corrections failed to provide care for prisoner with cancer - deputy Health and Disability Commissioner

7:56 pm on 27 May 2019

A woman prisoner who died of advanced gastric cancer was provided with inadequate care by the Department of Corrections, the health and disability watchdog has found.

Inside Paremoremo Prison

The watchdog said doctors, nurses and Department of Corrections had failed to provide adequate care. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

A report released today by Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan found that Corrections, a doctor and a nurse failed to appropriately respond to the woman's symptoms at Auckland Region Women's Corrections Facility.

The woman had entered prison in 2016 and at the time had a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, the report said, but within two months she had started complaining of symptoms including a burning throat, vomiting and nausea.

After several more complaints and two separate doctors visits the woman was supplied with medication but her symptoms persisted.

When she reported black matter in her vomit, a nurse scheduled a review for the next day, at which point she was transferred to hospital. While in hospital the woman was found to have advanced gastric cancer.

She died in 2017, the report said.

Mr Allan said the doctors, nurses and Department of Corrections had failed to provide adequate care.

He said those failures included a lack of appropriate assessments, inconsistent documentation and poor co-ordination of care. He recommended Corrections and the nurse provide a written apology to the woman's family and that the department conduct an audit of inmate documentation.

In response, Corrections provided evidence of staff training and said it had arranged for education of staff on commonly presenting health conditions.

Corrections National Commissioner Rachel Leota said she fully accepted that Corrections had failed in its responsibility to ensure the woman received adequate medical care.

She said Corrections was working to meet with the woman's family to apologise for the distress caused to them.

Ms Leota said Corrections had taken on board and implemented all of the recommendations made by Mr Allan, and said the medical staff in question were no longer working in New Zealand prisons.

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