‘Standard practice’ but still unacceptable

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I have read and watched the various news reports in the past day or two regarding the release of the report on Dr. David Craig and his handling of inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary who suffer from various mental issues and were entering the facility on medications prescribed by their respective doctors.

I watched and read the news reports and information from new Justice Minister Darin King wherein he indicates that the report is an “exoneration for Dr. Craig.”  I have also read the Nov. 7 article by Barb Sweet, “Standard of care of prisons not acceptable: advocate” regarding information from Mark Gruchy, president of the province’s division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Not having read the actual report issued by the peer of Dr. Craig, I am limited to information on which I can base my comments to only that provided by the media. However, having seen and read the most recent information, I can say that I am hopeful that with the proposed implementation of the various recommendations by Dr. Philip Klassen in the report, things will change for the inmates who suffer from various mental illnesses. Mr. Gruchy is absolutely correct when he stated in Ms. Sweet’s article, “People aren’t getting the care they deserve as human beings.” It appears also from the article that this may not be all Dr. Craig’s fault. However, the simple fact remains that as government takes a long time to sort this matter out, the individuals who have had medications ended by Dr. Craig are still likely dealing with their medical issues without the benefit of their medications, and that, from a human rights perspective, is unacceptable.

Based on information included in the Oct. 2nd article about Doug Squires, if, as stated, Dr. Craig ended Squires’ medications cold-turkey and as an additional punishment for being incarcerated, while this may not be an issue that Dr. Klassen deemed inappropriate or substandard from a psychiatric perspective, Minister King should be very concerned about whether or not it is appropriate from a justice perspective.  

I personally believe it is inappropriate from a medical/psychiatric perspective, but that’s a purely personal opinion. I do, however, feel quite strongly that if nothing else, it is an inappropriate human rights and justice issue.

Whether the information/statements made by Mr. Squires in the Oct. 2nd article are correct or not as to how he was treated by Dr. Craig, it is something that should/could have been looked at by Dr. Klassen, had the inmates been interviewed. However, they can and certainly should be looked at by the government to make sure that inmates are being treated with respect as human beings.

So, the title of Ms. Sweet’s article — “Standard of care in prisons not acceptable” — in my opinion says it all. The standard for care offered to inmates, at least in the area of mental illness, is unacceptable. It appears that’s the case across Canada, based on Dr. Klassen's findings that Dr. Craig’s care of inmates is standard. The fact that the care of these individuals at HMP may be “standard when compared to other provinces” doesn’t mean that we in this province can’t do better.  

Why not be a progressive leader and provide the same level of care to these inmates as provided to the general public? A first step might be to have Dr. Craig (or others) reinstate the medications for inmates immediately while this whole matter is dealt with so they don’t have to continue to be penalized a second time for whatever caused them to be incarcerated in the first place. I would challenge Minister King to do exactly that.

Brian Richey writes from Paradise.

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Ron Tizzard
    November 13, 2012 - 08:56

    I hear you Herb, and agree to the extent that this entire review, is far from being concluded from a the medical practice perspective. It is my prayer, and your's I would assume, that the final analysis and outcome will be a sensible one i.e. that the medical practice in the Pen will be tied to 'medical diagnosis' and 'need'; not just a hand-out each day of meds with very little foundation for the prescription distribution....which has not been been explicited denied that I am aware of having taken place ethrough the years. That accusation has never been 'denied', and disgustedly so!...which says a lot i.e. CHANGE IS ON THE WAY, AND RIGHTLY SO!

  • Herb Morrison
    November 13, 2012 - 08:18

    With regard to the Government’s recently released report designed to address the issues pertaining to the psychiatric care being provided to inmates at HMP, I offer the following thoughts. The question that I would raise would be: “is the psychiatric care being provided to inmates at HMP effectively meeting inmates’ specific, individual needs for treatment of the particular form of mental illness with which they find themselves afflicted? The key word here is effectiveness. True, inmates with mental health issues are receiving treatment, from a qualified Psychiatrist, for their illness while they are incarcerated; however, I would ask whether or not the professional treatment being provided is indeed effective in providing the kind of relief from the emotional pain they are suffering, to the inmates in question? In my opinion, the Government’s recently released report pertaining to this particular issue, while going to great lengths to establish the professional competency of the Psychiatrist in question, fails to answer the question as to whether or not the psychiatric care being provided to inmates at HMR, is effective in treating the emotional pain being inflicted on them by the particular form of mental illness with which they are afflicted. What is described by the Government as standard practice, might not constitute effective practice.

  • Ron Tizzard
    November 13, 2012 - 08:15

    Very articulate piece Brian. While I respect the prayer of your Letter to the Edior, I cannot completely accept the direction of your opinion. I say completely, because a whole lot more has to weighed and balanced before returning to anything approximating the socially jocular, notorious, disgusting, clinically abject morning pro-forma 'meds-line' is even permitted to be put back in place. The system has to wear that, not Dr. Craig. I think Dr. Craig delivered a wake-up call to the entire system, resulting in a review which should have taken place decades ago! He didn't dismiss the 'perceived' needs of the inmates...he was the Institution's MD; he assessed medical conditions, prescribing as he - the prison's MD- saw fit. DID HE NOT IN, FACT, HURT PEOPLE EN-MASS there was nothing reported to that effect...St. Clare's, the Health Sciences were not innudated with HMP imates to the best of our knowledge...or it would have been serialized on our TVs; which did not happen. There were some reports of discomfort, which any of us may experience with any kind of medication, or medication change. Any other extreme symptoms, I feel confident, would have been addressed. Let's have a look at what Dr. Klassen had to say, how it rolls out, in the final analysis. Life at the PEN cannot be, nor should it be...a pleasant experience. That said, the prisoners do not protest daily of conditions there...the 'recidivist' rate seems to be fairly high there, which would atest to that. Why don't we ask for some stats on that point....many, too many inmates seem to be regulars...which speakes for itself to a certain degree.....it cannot be all that bad down there. But, then again, that may be was exactly what Dr. Craig had in mind i.e. let's take the system for a ride without 'the meds' and let's see how many regulars will be 'less regular' as inmates, without the morning line-up, the automated 'PILL DROP' which seems to have been the morning GLORY Walk to the 'pill-drop office. The next few months as this finally raps up should be interesting.