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Serco apologises over prisoner treatment

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/07/2016

Prison operator Serco admits it fell "well short" when it denied a prisoner with cancer painkillers, a wheelchair and left his cellmate to clean up his gangrenous toes with toilet paper.

A report from deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan has described a "pattern of failure" that left the man crawling to the toilet during an 18-day stay at then Secro-run Mount Eden Corrections Facility in 2013.

The man, who suffered from lymphoma and circulation problems with his hands and feet, was transferred to Mount Eden while awaiting to appear in court, but staff there failed to treat the blisters on his toes despite his medical file warning them of possible infection.

Staff also refused to him his prescribed pain killers, but didn't make notes of why.

"My feet were stinging with the pain I asked to see the doctor, which was the next day. He had a look at them and said we will have to keep an eye on them," the prisoner said in a letter complaining.

"About two weeks later nothing happened. When I had to go to the toilet I had to crawl on my knees until I could reach the toilet and pull myself up."

His cellmate told the commissioner he used toilet paper to clean the man's feet every morning and staff told the man they didn't have a wheelchair to give him, despite having two in the building.

He died later in the year.

In a statement Serco said it had apologised to the man's family and had offered to meet with them.

"We do not dispute the Health and Disability Commissioner's findings. We are determined to learn from them and ensure that this doesn't happen again," Serco justice managing director Paul Mahoney said.

"Immediately following the incident, we took steps to implement actions to ensure a similar situation did not happen again."

He said the health services at the prison had been taken over by the Department of Corrections in April this year.

Complaints about fighting at Mount Eden led to the government taking over day-to-day running of the prison last year.

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