The day after Patrick White’s April 29 Globe and Mail “Ferguson outlines parole shortcomings” story appeared, another Globe article was published under his byline. “New inmates often denied essential medications for weeks”, from the paper’s April 30 edition revealed that the delay in medical assessments for incoming inmates in the federal system was a dangerous practice with potentially serious consequences, particularly for prisoners with mental health issues.
This time, the source was an unreleased prison ombudsman investigation into the flaws with Correctional Service of Canada’s drug plan. According to Howard Sapers, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, his latest Annual Report notes that CSC is conducting a prevalence study of chronic health care conditions within the system, and he applauds what is a challenging initiative for an increasingly complex population’s health care needs.
Nonetheless, health care in the federal prison system has been an ongoing source of friction for decades as institutions struggle to stay within their budgets while inmates clamour for the attention to which the law says they are entitled. Lately, CSC is facing further budget constraints imposed by a federal government that makes no excuses for cutting funds at a time when new and expensive therapies for conditions such as Hep C offer benefits that will eventually make for healthier and safer communities.
Through all these years, and even now when faced with dire conditions threatening the health of thousands of men and women who will eventually come back into our neighbourhoods and become a burden to already overstretched health care resources, CSC has consistently tried to paint a very different image. In response to the April 30 Globe article and Patrick White’s request for a comment from Ottawa, Esther Mailhot acted as CSC’s spokesperson. She not only argued the situation was not as CSC’s own prison doctors claimed, but defended the practice of withholding some medications for the sake of offender and staff safety. This position contradicts both the evidence that these policies have negative impacts on the security of everyone in the system, but also the opinions of their own health care professionals.
Nothing seems to change. We couldn’t resist sending off a note to Ms. Mailhot:-
May 4, 2015
Ms Esther Mailhot,
Correctional Service of Canada,
340 Laurier Avenue West,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P9
Re: New inmates often denied essential medications for weeks
Globe and Mail, Thursday, April 30, 2015
It’s become a striking hallmark of CSC over the twenty plus years I’ve observed the Service for management to deny, deflect and distract critics and criticisms, even when evidence is as close to irrefutable as is possible.
The sources the Globe and Mail cite warrant attention, and one would expect you to at least review the material, and go further still by dispatching a head office agent to determine the degree to which CSC policies are followed.
My own research over the years has found that health-care within the federal prison system is problematic, to be as kind as possible on the subject. I’m willing to allow that CSC looks to reexamine policy, but changes are slow in coming, and there remains a difference between what comes out of CSC Ottawa and how health-care is delivered in the trenches.
Charles H. Klassen