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Inmates and attorney: COVID-19 outbreak at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women impacts standard of care

Inmates and activists say the coronavirus outbreak at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women is complicating the standard of care inside the walls and barbed wire.
Inmates and activists say the coronavirus outbreak at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women is complicating the standard of care inside the walls and barbed wire.(WVIR)
Published: Sep. 17, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT
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FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Inmates and activists say the coronavirus outbreak at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women is complicating the standard of care inside the walls and barbed wire.

The struggles come inside a prison with a history of healthcare challenges. In 2016 the courts ruled the correctional center’s medical care was substandard and ordered improvements. Those who fought on behalf of the inmates say years later the level of care was still a problem, and then came the pandemic.

With a coronavirus outbreak infecting dozens of inmates and hospitalizing at least three, attorney Shannon Ellis is worried.

“This is a very, very intense time of crisis out there and the settlement agreement and the facility’s obligations have never been more important than they are right now,” Ellis stated. “It’ll be a miracle if no one at Fluvanna passes away due to this and I hope and pray that that miracle happens, but I would be shocked,” she said.

We spoke with inmate Faye Wilson on the phone. She says that the medical attention is not what it’s supposed to be. “This facility is supposed to be a number one medical facility for women but trying to get medical treatment here is next to none.”

She says medical requests are going unfilled. “I filled my paper out yesterday to have just my ibuprofen refills. But when I gave it to the treatment nurse, she read it she saw, ‘I don’t know if you know or not but our clinic was shut down right now.’”

“I’m hearing the same things about disruption of medication. The medical wing of the prison has been entirely reserved for COVID patients” Ellis said.

“I mean even for, even for a cold or something, it takes three days to a week to get into the doctor to be seen.” Wilson stated.

But concerns go beyond pills and prescriptions. “We actually have a client who was found unresponsive a few days ago, and the doctors and nurse who saw her had to report to the wing to try to administer care there,” Ellis said.

She was revived but, according to Ellis, her only medical orders were to rest and drink water. “Which I think we can agree is not appropriate medical follow up if you’re found not breathing and unresponsive...and that’s just one story.”

Ellis says she recently spoke with an inmate who has a peanut allergy. “She is getting the same peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that everybody else gets. And because they’re cut off from access to commissary, even the women who have money can’t supplement.”

Another example Ellis spoke about is a woman who had all her teeth extracted and is on a strict soft diet. “She is being served the same food as everyone else, those same chips and carrot sticks, those are coming to her she can’t eat them. She cannot eat them.” she said.

All of this is why Ellis is concerned. “There is such a high concentration of people with very serious medical conditions that make them just really sitting ducks for this disease.”

We contacted the Virginia Department of Corrections, sharing this information with them and asking for comment. We have not heard back.

Copyright 2020 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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