Injured inmate fights for medical attention

A week after being shot three times and undergoing emergency surgery, Mark McDiarmid was moved to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre from Whitehorse General Hospital.

A week after being shot three times and undergoing emergency surgery, Mark McDiarmid was moved to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre from Whitehorse General Hospital.

“That was the hospital’s decision,” said Tricia Ratel, director of corrections. “We would have actually preferred him to stay in there (the hospital).

“But he is receiving very good medical care (at WCC) and we are taking care of him.”

McDiarmid and his family disagree.

The 32-year-old woodcutter, who was shot by RCMP just outside Dawson City on the evening of October 20, filed a complaint about the medical staff at the jail this week.

“He’s in extreme pain and he’s not sleeping,” said Mark’s sister Stacey McDiarmid. “Basically, they’re not listening to him, they’re not providing him his basic human rights and I don’t think it’s fair.”

Mark was shot in the shoulder, the thigh and the pelvis. Two of those bullet wounds are accompanied with exit wounds, including one on his buttocks. One bullet is still lodged in his body.

He is restricted to sitting or lying in four awkward positions, or constant pacing – now that he is able to walk again, he said.

But the real problems began on November 2 when he met with the jail’s doctor for the first time.

The doctor changed his medication from the muscle relaxant Flexeril, which the emergency room doctor had prescribed, to Tylenol and ibuprofen.

Once the Flexeril wore off, the pain increased and hindered the physiotherapy exercises meant to help Mark recover his muscles, he said. And because the Tylenol and ibuprofen was prescribed for the morning, by nighttime the pain stopped him from sleeping, he said.

From November 4 to 7, Mark repeatedly asked the guards to take him back to the hospital.

Along with the constant pain, the exhaustion was causing sweats, shaking and erratic blood pressure, among other things, Mark’s journal entries from those days said.

At 9:30 p.m. on November 4, guards told Mark there were not enough staffers to escort him to the hospital, his journal recorded.

Stacey was told the same thing.

There is no exact policy detailing when the jail calls in two extra guards to escort an inmate to the hospital, Ratel said, adding the jail is adequately staffed.

“We’re very proactive and risk adverse because we’re not doctors,” she said. “I don’t take any chances because it’s too great of a risk. It’s done on a case-by-case basis. Each person’s medical situation is different.”

On November 7, after Stacey called the jail, the Department of Justice and Minister Mike Nixon several times, her brother was returned to the hospital.

The emergency room doctor put him back on Flexeril.

Two days later, during the jail’s doctor’s regular weekly visit, Mark was taken off the Flexeril again.

Jail staff and guards follow the instructions given by the hospital, said Ratel.

“Or, if the WCC’s physician sees the person thereafter and changes the prescriptions or the orders – obviously, as people’s health improves or deteriorates, orders change,” she said. “But the staff have to follow whatever orders are on file. They don’t make medical decisions.”

And Mark defends the jail guards’ actions.

“They’re great,” he said. “But the medical staff gives you just what they need and nothing more.

“And that’s what I’ve heard from two other inmates that I’ve spoken with.

“I think it’s because they deal with a lot of drug addicts in here. They don’t know what to believe.”

Mark insists he is not a drug addict, an assertion backed up by his sister.

He is very aware of his own body and the body in general, after studying massage therapy, said Stacey.

And he was prescribed Flexiril for injuries in the past.

It is not an addictive drug, said Mark, adding his past prescriptions were for no longer than a week at a time.

There should be a process for inmates to get a second opinion or to consult with a doctor outside of the prison’s hired professional, said Mark.

“And when I entered the jail system, they never gave me an introduction to the paperwork,” he said.

Mark was only shown the official complaint process last week, and that process takes at least a week to complete, he said.

“The problem with the doctors here is that they’re only here once a week on Wednesday,” Mark added. “So, say they prescribe something to you and it doesn’t work, you’re stuck in pain for an entire week. There’s nobody you could go to.”

And the jail’s daily nursing staff don’t have the authority to write prescriptions, said Mark.

And despite his refusal to keep taking the Tylenol and ibuprofen, because it is making him sick, the prescription won’t be taken off his file, he said.

“I really hate having to sit back and watch him be tortured,” said Stacey. “In the public’s eyes, he’s still innocent until proven guilty.

“There could be permanent damage now because his body’s not healing properly. And that’s going to be their fault.”

“Stories are being exaggerated,” said Ratel, who was unsure how often the doctor visits the jail. “There are a lot of inmates that will go to some lengths to drug seek, and I’m not saying that this is what Mr. McDiarmid is doing, but you know, it happens.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at