Local Prison Faces Allegations Of 'Gross Negligence'
Posted June 2, 2004
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Poisonous spider bites, lice, infections left untreated; a North Carolina prison faces allegations of substandard health care.
The allegations come not just from inmates at Fountain Correctional Center, but also from a registered nurse who worked at the prison just outside Rocky Mount.
In the past three months, inmates at Fountain Correctional filed 20 formal complaints about their health care. Wednesday, former Fountain nurse Michelle Lamm said the prison could be prime for a lawsuit because of neglect.
Fountain Correctional Center
in Edgecombe County is a minimum security prison for women. Lamm, who quit her job at the prison last week, said many of the 500 inmates are barely getting a minimum standard of health care.
"It just made me sick to my stomach," Lamm said. "Just because they've made a mistake, that doesn't that they deserve to die there."
Lamm left the Fountain infirmary after less than a month on the job.
She said inmates with infections, respiratory problems or pain often waited weeks for proper treatment.
"It was just gross negligence," she said.
Fountain superintendent Jimmy Horton refuted most of Lamm's allegations.
"We have a chain of command," Horton said. "If you have a complaint, you have a supervisor. Then, you have a next step. She didn't exercise any of these.
"A lot of times," Horton said, "I think inmates leave Fountain healthier than they were when they get here. I think we have an excellent record, and I'll stand by that."
Prison administrators admitted they are short of registered nurses; only two of five positions are filled. And, like any health-care facility, the staff must prioritize the most serious sick-call patients.
Lamm claimed some nurses did not keep thorough records of inmate illnesses.
"There were patients there that needed to be in the hospital," she said. "They (prison nurses) wanted people to flow with the system and chart vague so that the state could not be implicated.
"Maybe they're so jaded because they've worked understaffed for so long that they just don't care anymore. Something has to be done before someone gets really sick and dies."
Lamm wants the state to launch an investigation into Fountain's health care.
Administrators said they constantly reevaluate inmate services and hope to hire more nurses. But, despite the allegations, they do not plan on making any other changes.