No More Wellpath, No More Corruption: a Letter to the DOC

9-20-22

To the DOC and the Governor of Massachusetts –

Since September 2020, I have been documenting the quality of care given by the company with whom you have a contract, Wellpath. 

My loved one inside suffers from chronic coronary heart disease which makes him prone to major heart attacks and has resulted in seven coronary stents. His first heart attack was on January 1, 2020, with his second following eight months later on September 17, 2020 – while he was on his way to Essex County Sheriff’s department. He was taken to Beverly Hospital and given four coronary stents by a cardiologist. He stayed in the hospital for a week before the COs took him to Middleton Jail, when our nightmare experience with Wellpath healthcare first began. 

Upon arrival, his medical treatment plan from the cardiologist at Beverly Hospital was given to Wellpath staff. However, after the routine medical intake, my loved one was sent to his block without his prescribed Lisinopril medication for six weeks. Lisinopril is meant to treat high blood pressure, prevent heart failure, and can also reduce the risk of death after a heart attack. Due to the complicated system of authorizing communication with incarcerated people, I was unable to get ahold of my loved one during this time, and he was constantly asking staff for his medication. Wellpath simply responded that it wasn’t in the medical plan. As soon as I got in touch and heard what was happening, I immediately advocated on his behalf, contacting the superintendent and Wellpath admin to demand they provide his medication. This was the first of many instances where I had to get involved to demand the bare minimum of care for my loved one. 

In addition to withholding his life-saving prescription, Wellpath’s medication refill process is unreliable and lacks accountability. For instance, my loved one stopped receiving a certain medication because it was “on another slip.” Forced to contact his cardiologist myself to receive his full medication regimen, I provided his prescription to Wellpath. Shouldn’t medical staff be proactively acting in the care of their patients and facilitating their access to medication?

On top of this, numerous incidents of Wellpath negligence concerning my loved one have occurred – and I have it all documented. In one instance, my loved one was experiencing chest pains and the CO refused to call the infirmary until his cellmate began to advocate for him. It took a whole half hour before the infirmary was notified, resulting from my calling the superintendent and the Danvers State Police to demand a well-being check. The sergeant informed me that they weren’t able to perform the check and advised me to call the Attorney General’s Office. I called the following day and sent an email to the complaint line. Once again, due to my advocacy, my loved one was finally able to be seen. He was transported to the hospital for observation and treated for angina, a condition which can lead to chest pain (as documented by his doctor) and most likely stemmed from his lack of medication for those six weeks.

Beyond their failure to supply vital medication and blatant medical negligence, Wellpath’s inhumane treatment of people who are incarcerated is part of their culture. During the initial year of Covid-19, my loved one was experiencing vomiting, fever, body aches, chills, diarrhea, trouble breathing, headaches, fatigue, and a heavy feeling in his chest. Although he explained his symptoms to the COs, my loved one was completely ignored. I, once again, called the superintendent to demand proper care and contacted his cardiologist who reached out to Wellpath with concerns for his health. Only after these extreme measures of outside advocacy, my loved one was finally taken to the infirmary, where he was given IV fluids and a Covid test that turned out positive. The cardiologist emailed the infirmary asking why my loved one wasn’t given a chest x-ray or taken to the hospital since he had a history of chronic heart disease and had pneumonia in the past. Following the doctor’s orders, Wellpath staff gave him a chest x-ray (and never provided us the results) and a voldyne-volumetric to expand his lungs, even though I had requested breathing treatments. This experience demonstrates how the whole system is guilty through its combination of callous COs, ignorance of previous medical history by Wellpath providers, and delayed treatment – and this must be exposed to the public.

Indeed, the correction system is corrupt. In another incident, my loved one was brutally attacked by other inmates while in plain sight of COs, leaving him with a broken shoulder and nose. This was not an isolated case; the same two inmates were involved in a few other fights, making this the main result of classification not fulfilling their job description correctly. After the incident, the Beverly Hospital treating physician in the ER recommended that my loved one visit an orthopedic surgeon within seven days. It took Wellpath three weeks to schedule a visit to Shattuck Hospital – also known to many as a butcher shop – and the revisit took months. Similarly, optometry, dental, and cardiologist visits were delayed and never scheduled regularly, or as advised. Follow-up appointments after the incident did not occur and the PT advised by the surgeon was ignored.

The list goes on… I could write a book on the negligence of Well-path and the DOC. All parties involved must be terminated and all medical stuff must lose their license to practice. No more Wellpath, no more corruption. 

Signed,

Your watchful eye

End Medical Neglect: Get Anthony Urgent Medical Care

As we continue to hear more and more stories of medical neglect due to Wellpath, the incompetent private medical provider in MA prisons, we’ll be sharing some immediate calls to action. Right now, we’re seeking support for Anthony Serrano, who is incarcerated at MCI-Shirley. He lost 28 pounds over the course of one week from vomiting, nausea, and inability to keep food down. He sought medical care, but instead was thrown into solitary, while Wellpath told him that nothing was wrong. He’s still dizzy and nauseous and in need of urgent care.

We know that the DOC needs to cancel Wellpath’s contract. Until then, join us in demanding that they provide Anthony with the care he needs.

Call the superintendent at MCI-Shirley: (978) 425-4341
You can press 2 to skip the entire intro message.
Press 2 again to dial an extension.
Press 2 a third time to connect to the medium facility.
Superintendent’s Office Ext. 4200 or Ext. 4126
Even if no one answers when you call, leave a message with the script below.

CALL SCRIPT

Hello, my name is [X] and I am a concerned community member calling on behalf of Anthony Serrano, W113379. Anthony has been seeking medical care for over a week, after losing 28 pounds from vomiting and inability to keep any food down. He also has sciatic pain and was seen at Shattuck and recommended a medical mattress and physical therapy, but hasn’t gotten it. 

This is gross medical neglect. To remedy this, I’m demanding that Anthony receive:

  1.  An urgent full evaluation for his gastrointestinal illness at an outside medical facility
  2. A back brace, medical mattress, wheelchair, and physical therapy appointment for his back pain

Will you confirm that Anthony will immediately receive this care?

Medical neglect stories from inside: a compilation

Wellpath at MCI-Norfolk is severely under-staffed— the shortage of nurses means that people who need chronic care are being left unseen inside. One insider suffering from glaucoma is now sending his second request for care, and it’s been months since he’s been examined for it.

But why is that?

Prison Legal News revealed Wellpath’s cost-saving policies mean that incarcerated people are only seen in cases of “life or limb threatening illness or injury.” But what happens to the money saved?

“If they provide NO services, they get to keep all that money,” noted Yolanda Huang, a civil rights attorney who is also a member of the NLG.

But what happens to incarcerated people?

Read their stories below:

content warning: state violence, miscarriage, assault, state murder

Lauren Kent: 4 months pregnant, ignored for cramps and vaginal bleeding and was instead told her “issue is more behavioral than medical.” Laura later gavebirth to a stillborn baby over the toilet in a maximum security cell. In an act of astonishing cruelty, Laura’s request to hold her dead baby was denied.

Ziggy Lemanski: filed several sick slips for flu-like symptoms, and had a weakened immune system due to HIV and Hepatitis C, wrote that he struggled to get out of bed and was coughing up blood. By the time he received hospital treatment, “his lungs were so congested they wouldn’t even show up on an x-ray.” He died at 44 of pneumonia.

Michael Ramey: 36, was diagnosed with atypical migraines and said he needed to see a neurologist within a week. The appointment was never set & he fell many times over the course of 10 days. He was written off by clinicians as “med-seeking.” A month later a nurse found him in his cell unable to walk, asking for help. He was sent to a hospital and died a week later from cryptococcal meningitis.

Andrew Leighton: 57, experienced “excruciating pain in his teeth, nose, and neck” and was prescribed penicillin by a dentist. Later a nurse found “a golf-ball-size mass in his throat” and told him to “apply ice to his neck and sleep in a slightly elevated position.” He was found unresponsive in his cell the next day.

Paul Bulthouse: 39, suffered 15 seizures due to withdrawal from prescription drugs that caused “severe and fatal withdrawal symptoms” which were ignored before he died. The seizures were recorded on video as guards failed to make their regular welfare checks

Richard Willingham: had a history of pulmonary embolisms. While in COVID quarantine, he had chest pains and difficulty breathing, and was given a shot of blood thinners, then sent back to his cell. He submitted a sick call request, but 25hrs later he hadn’t received help. He later had to be rushed to the hospital where he died.

Marc Moreno: 18 arrested during a mental health crisis. A Wellpath clinician observed “evidence of mania & psychosis” but gave no treatment or referrals. Instead, he languished in his cell and was observed rolling around in feces. He lost 38lbs in the 8 days before he was found dead .

Many families who have lost loved ones due to Wellpath’s negligence are suing, but that isn’t an option for many incarcerated people. It is essential that their stories are heard.

See original thread here: on twitter and @threadreaderapp

For more stories of medical neglect:

Loved ones lost to Wellpath’s horrific indifference

End medical neglect: Yisbert’s story

This is the story of Yisbert Lara, age 39, an incarcerated man at MCI Norfolk.

Yisbert started experiencing severe back pain more than 18 months ago. His experience with Wellpath first began when he was seen by a nurse practitioner who diagnosed him with sciatic nerve damage despite the lack of tests, x-rays, and MRI scans. Yisbert was simply given Tylenol and then sent on his way. 

After this event, Yisbert’s back pain worsened over time. Finding it difficult to walk or sleep, Yisbert complained frequently to the medical staff about his condition. Wellpath personnel changed his prescriptions for pain medication seven times without success. On top of this, Yisbert saw a physical therapist who applied an electro stimulus to his back while restraining his legs, a procedure which provided no pain relief. Then, in late April, Yisbert saw a foot doctor who wanted to inject a shot of cortisone into his back. Lacking a proper diagnosis and information about the procedure and its effects, Yisbert refused the shot.

Since February 2020, Yisbert has submitted 15 sick slips and four grievances to the medical department, each time asking for tests, to get sent out for an MRI, or for any treatment by a doctor that would give him an accurate diagnosis for what had become chronic, debilitating back pain. As a result of his pain, Yisbert walks with a pronounced limp that requires the assistance of a cane and finds it difficult to sleep at night. Yisbert continued to file sick slips and grievances – all of which were repeatedly denied by the Wellpath provider. 

Yisbert’s experience is, sadly, very common and the state hasn’t done anything to improve these conditions. The Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor filed a report that found that the Department of Correction failed to provide timely response to sick calls from incarcerated people. Importantly, this audit occurred before the pandemic, and given the rise in healthcare needs since then, these delays are likely worse now. Even though incarcerated people are legally entitled to file grievances for this and other kinds of medical neglect, those grievances are essentially never acted on by prison officials.

Frustrated and fed up, Yisbert filed a request for medical treatment under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, Wellpath finally sent him to Boston Medical Center for tests. Yisbert saw a neurosurgeon and was given an MRI that properly diagnosed him with a herniated disc – the answer he was waiting for after more than 18 months of undue suffering and pain. He was then told he would be scheduled for surgery to repair the damage.

 For Yisbert, this sad saga of neglect, inadequate and inept medical care continues, despite his diagnosis, as he is still in pain while he awaits his surgery and continues to have problems with obtaining his pain medication. 

Yisbert Lara’s inadequate and negligent care at the hands of the Wellpath medical provider at MCI Norfolk is just one of several examples that demonstrate how the institution does not provide what one needs to thrive. Instead, Wellpath’s negligence and inhuman treatment perpetuates and deepens harm. In Yisbert’s words:

“I don’t feel I should have been made to beg for my surgery. I should have been sent to a specialist two years ago. Doctors need to be consulted sooner when people complain of serious issues. I was ignored and this shouldn’t happen.”

Yisbert Lara

For more stories of medical neglect:

Loved ones lost to Wellpath’s horrific indifference

End Medical Neglect: Interview with Shorty Mac

Interview with Shorty Mac

As part of our ongoing efforts to document the harms of medical care in Massachusetts jails and prisons, we’re collecting stories from people who have survived Wellpath’s care.

One of our members interviewed Shorty Mac, who is incarcerated at MCI-Norfolk, about his experiences with Wellpath. Below is a transcript of this interview. Shorty is 70 years old and has suffered unnecessarily because of Wellpath’s negligence.

Shorty: “I’ve been in pain for more than two years. I’ve been diagnosed with a kidney stone and it was just two weeks ago that I was scheduled to see a urologist.

“At first, the Wellpath provider gave me Naproxen for the pain and this didn’t help at all. Then they gave me Neurontin. This helped, but the side effects have been that I’m tired all of the time and I’m shaking a great deal.

“I also have a heart condition, cardiomyopathy, and hypertension. Sometimes I have shortness of breath due to this condition. But it’s the buildup of fluid in my legs and feet that’s the worse. Sometimes they are swollen so bad and the pain is so bad I can’t even walk.

“These Wellpath providers changed my heart medication without talking to my cardiologist. To this day, I still don’t know what I was given. An officer had to tell the nurse on call that I didn’t look so good, and I was taken to an outside hospital. On top of all of this, I contracted Covid and had to be put on oxygen.

“Even though I had plenty of people listed on my emergency contact list, Wellpath did not contact my family or my sister. One of my friends on the inside had to contact my people to tell them what was happening.

“If it were not for my sister and my lawyer advocating for my treatment, I wouldn’t be alive today. Wellpath doesn’t care about me.”

Interviewer: “What makes you think that the care Wellpath provides is so bad?”

Shorty: “Come on man! I was dying, I had Covid and they took me to Milford Hospital in Milford, MA. Those people were the kindest, most professional doctors and nurses I had ever met. They talked to me about my treatment and what they were going to do. The difference between the medical care I received there and what I’ve received from Wellpath was as clear as night and day. It felt like the medical people at Milford cared about me.”

Interviewer: “What would you like to see done as far as solutions concerning your healthcare?”

Shorty: “Three major changes need to be made.

“First, Wellpath should not be allowed to change medication without consulting your primary care doctor. This procedure is dangerous.

“Second, there’s no continuity to one’s treatment. In most cases, we are required to see a nurse practitioner at Wellpath before seeing a doctor. If the nurse practitioner leaves Wellpath, there is no follow up to what they recommended. The turnover rate for providers is frequent- it seems like every three to five months there’s a new nurse practitioner!

“Third, it is so difficult to get our prescriptions refilled. I need certain medications for my hypertension and heart condition, and if I don’t have these prescription filled on time, I’m in trouble. I can’t count on Wellpath to even provide this basic service.

“Look, the medical care is very, very poor. The only way to change it completely is to get rid of Wellpath. The don’t care about us. Their bottom line is to profit off of us – not to care about us.”

For more stories of medical neglect:

Loved ones lost to Wellpath’s horrific indifference