The Whitehorse Correctional Centre currently has no nurses.
Of the facility’s two nurses, one has resigned and the other has taken holidays.
“This has been a week now,” said inmate Anthony Johnson. “You can see the stress some people are going through. A lot of people are going to be going through issues here pretty quick and this is only going to be the second week. Things are going to start running out.”
For Johnson, they already have, he said.
Johnson takes medication for arthritis every night to help him sleep. They centre’s pharmacy has already run out of the pain meds he usually takes and has started substituting them with a double dose of what they have left, he explained.
Even more troubling, a fellow inmate has been approved for anti-depressants and, without them, he and others could become suicidal, said Johnson.
“There will be a lot of people in pain.”
The meds-cart gets pushed around the facility four times a day: 8:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
The meds are being distributed by the guards, who don’t like this either, said Johnson, adding they told him about the lack of nurses.
A memo was posted on the centre’s bulletin board last Wednesday, said Dan Cable, a spokesman for the department of justice.
“And we can get meds,” said Cable, laughing.
Management can place orders under the auspice of the doctor who still visits each week, he added.
The facility will run “as per the normal operating procedure for after-hours,” the memo states.
With only two nurses, who only work weekdays, this is not so unusual, Cable said.
Until the sole nurse returns to work, prescriptions can be dropped off at Shopper’s Drug Mart, which has agreed to pack the meds in “blister packs” that get dolled out to the inmates from the cart, the memo explained to guards.
It also outlines that a medication sheet needs to be filled out and that enough medication has been placed on the cart for 30 days.
Justice is trying to recruit a new nurse, said Cable, and the nurse on holidays is expected to return on February 4.
There is no auxiliary nurse for the centre, but there will be more, 24-hour health staff available once the new secure-assessment centre is built, said Cable.
“It’s not a huge population,” he added. “It’s only about 70-80 inmates at any given time.”
But Johnson is going through the phone book, calling everyone from the ombudsmen to Mayor Bev Buckway, he said.
“They’re going to have to figure something out and, by my understanding, they’re not doing anything, they’re just going to wait till the other nurse comes back from her holidays.
“I know it’s a stressful place to work,” he said. “But there should’ve been something put in place so this doesn’t happen because we’re talking about people’s health here.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org