Provision of health care to prison inmate – Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner


Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan today released a report finding the Department of Corrections in breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights (the Code) for failures relating to the administration of medications to a man.

The man, who was in his fifties, required daily medication for coronary vascular disease, and twice daily medication for HIV. When he was received at the corrections facility he brought with him his own supply of medication for these conditions.

During the man’s incarceration, Corrections staff failed to administer his medication on a number of separate occasions. Missed doses of HIV medication may have significant long term implications for a patient.

When the man arrived at the facility a registered nurse did not record his recent hospitalisation for chest pain or evaluate the importance of his medication as required by policy, and did not update the medication chart to record that he had brought his own supply of medication. An initial health assessment was not completed at this time or at any other time during the man’s incarceration, despite one being required by policy.

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Mr Allan said that ultimately, Corrections was responsible for the delivery of services by its staff, who in this case did not comply with its policies, and did not complete an adequate assessment of the man’s condition, medication, and ongoing care requirements.

“A number of staff at Corrections failed to administer prescribed medications, and placed this man’s health at risk. He had no control over his access to medication, and was reliant on the staff at Corrections to provide him with adequate care. It is unacceptable that they did not do so,” Mr Allan said.

Mr Allan concluded that Corrections failed to provide services with reasonable care and skill.

He also noted that a person held in custody does not have the same choices or ability to access health services and that they are entirely reliant on the professional staff at the health centre to assess, evaluate, monitor, and treat them appropriately. The Corrections Act 2004 states that “a prisoner is entitled to receive medical treatment that is reasonably necessary”. The Act requires that the “standard of health care that is available to prisoners in a prison must be reasonably equivalent to the standard of health care available to the public”.

Corrections told HDC that it had made a number of changes since these events including new processes around the administering of medication and employing additional health staff. Corrections advised that it has apologised to the man.

Mr Allan recommended that Corrections conduct an audit of receiving office documentation and administration of ‘own supply’ medication, the administration of prescribed medications, and the completion of initial health assessments.

Mr Allan also recommended that Corrections provide training to health service staff at the facility on the importance of accurate documentation and the unacceptability of pre-signing documents.

The report for case 16HDC01713 is on the HDC website.