WASHINGTON – A nurse who worked at an immigration and customs detention center in Irwin County, Georgia and four attorneys who represent clients there claim that migrant women are routinely sent to a gynecologist who injured them and required unnecessary surgery , including hysterectomies.
The doctor whom three lawyers call Dr. Mahendra Amin, who practices in Douglas, Ga., Has continued to practice women at the Irwin County Detention Center for several years despite complaints from his patients.
Amin was the subject of a 2015 Justice Department investigation into making false claims against Medicaid and Medicare. As a result, he and other doctors involved paid $ 525,000 in a civil settlement, according to the Justice Department.
The lawyers identified the doctor after Dawn Wooten, who worked as a nurse at the facility, filed a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General. She said in the complaint that detainees were not receiving Covid-19 tests and other needed medical care. The complaint was first reported by Intercept.
Wooten worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia until he was demoted in July.
The complaint cites allegations from both nameless imprisoned immigrants and Wooten.
The facility houses immigrant inmates in the care of ICE, part of the Ministry of Homeland Security. It also houses inmates for Irwin County and the US Marshals Service.
Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed the complaint on behalf of the imprisoned immigrants at the center and Wooten.
Wooten was downgraded to “on demand” by a full-time nurse in July after she missed her job because she had symptoms of coronavirus. She said she believed the downgrade was retaliation for raising concerns about the coronavirus protocol, according to the complaint.
She also said that there were not enough active tests of the detained immigrants for the coronavirus and that the facility did not “report all of these positive cases,” meaning the number of cases at the facility may have been much higher than what ICE reported .
Elizabeth Mathren, an attorney who represented several women who saw Amin through her work at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she was employed from 2017 to 2019, said she filed her complaints with the detention center managers.
“I had a face-to-face interview with (someone in management) two to three years ago. I was so upset. I asked her to get my client treatment from another doctor. I told her I had heard from several people that he was rough that they were afraid to go to him, that they did not understand what he was doing, “said Elizabeth Mathren, who from 2017 represented several women through her work at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Mathren, she had at least one client report after being examined by Amin.
But Mathren said that despite concerns, migrant women were constantly being sent to Amin. The system is privately contracted by LaSalle Corrections.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said, “LaSalle Corrections has a strict zero-tolerance policy for any type of improper conduct in our facilities and takes all allegations of such ill-treatment seriously. Our company strongly denies these allegations and any implications of wrongdoing with the ICDC . “
In a statement, an attorney for Amin said, “We are aware of the whistleblower’s allegations regarding Dr. Amin and vehemently deny them. Dr. Amin is a highly respected doctor who has made his adult life treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia. “
“We look forward to all the facts and are confident that as soon as you do this, Dr. Amin will be rid of any wrongdoing.”
Benjamin Osorio, another attorney who represents women at the Irwin County facility, said two of his clients received hysterectomies that they believe were unnecessary.
One of the women of childbearing potential was told to have a hysterectomy after Amin found ovarian cysts, Osorio said. She was advised that they were cancerous, but her records show she did not receive a biopsy to confirm the cancer, he said. In another case, he said, his client was told that she had stage 4 cervical cancer and needed a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. But after her hysterectomy, an oncologist in Charlotte said she didn’t have cancer, according to Osorio.
Another lawyer, Sarah Owings, said she heard from many women who are told they have ovarian cysts that need to be removed or drained.
“I don’t think this is necessarily a systemic sterilization by ICE. I think this is the kind of thing that is allowed to thrive in the face of poor supervision and terrible, inhuman detention conditions,” Owings said.
In her complaint, Wooten said some of her patients had told her they were afraid to see a doctor whom they called a “uterus collector” according to the complaint.
In an interview with NBC News, Wooten said, “I had an inmate who asked me. She said, ‘What is he doing, Ms. Wooten, collecting all of our wombs?’ And I just looked at her confused because I didn’t have an answer. “
“The new shocking revelations about the abuse of women’s bodies must lead to the immediate closure of this terrible facility,” Azadeh Shahshahani, director of law and advocacy at Project South, said in a statement. “ICE and the private prison society must be held accountable.”
In a statement on Wooten’s allegations, an ICE spokesman said: “The US Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) does not comment on matters brought to the Inspector General’s office, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the US Department of Homeland Security ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers them to OIG for possible investigations and / or results. However, anonymous, unsubstantiated allegations made with no evidence of evidence should be treated with the reasonable skepticism they deserve. “
In response to attorneys’ claims about medical procedures, Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps said, “All ICE female inmates receive routine, age-appropriate gynecological and obstetric health care that complies with recognized community guidelines for women’s health services. “
“According to the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Service (ICE), since 2018 only two people at the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to certified, accredited health care professionals in gynecological and obstetric health facilities for hysterectomies under the National Correctional Health Care Commission. NCCHC) standards. Based on their ratings, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations were reviewed and approved by the facility’s clinical authority. “
She added: “Out of respect for the pending trial before the OIG, ICE is not making a premature statement on the alleged allegations and ICE intends to cooperate fully on any resulting investigation by the OIG.”
The agency said it is committed to the safety and well-being of those in custody and its facilities are subject to regular inspections. The Irwin County Detention Center has been repeatedly determined to meet ICE’s performance standards, the agency said.
Destruction of medical application forms
Wooten alleged in her complaint that men and women in the internment camp “mostly reported not being tested for Covid-19 from March to August 18” when they were given the opportunity to be tested at the ICE facility.
One woman reported that 100 women slept in a unit where women “were coughing, had a fever and other complaints, but officers didn’t listen to them tell about their health problems,” and that they never stopped, according to the US agency Covid-19 were tested complaint.
“After demanding that the sick women be taken to the medical department, she reported that the women were eventually brought but were returned within an hour and given only pain medication,” the complaint read.
Wooten also alleged that it was common practice for a nurse to destroy medical application forms from inmates asking to go to the medical department and fabricate records such as vital signs without seeing the patient seeking help.
ICE said in its spokesman’s statement that its epidemiologists have continuously followed the outbreak, regularly updated its infection prevention and control protocols, and issued guidelines to staff on how to manage the potential exposure of detainees.
ICE stated on its website that as of September 13, there were 42 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among its inmates at the Irwin County Detention Center and 5,772 in all facilities, with a total of six deaths.
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