WASHINGTON — A nurse who worked at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Irwin County, Georgia, and four attorneys representing clients there allege that immigrant women are routinely sent to a gynecologist, who bruises them and leaves them needless procedures, including hysterectomies.
The doctor, referred to by three lawyers as Dr. Mahendra Amin, who practices in Douglas, Georgia, has continued to treat women from the Irwin County Detention Center for the past few years, despite complaints from his patients.
Amin was the subject of a Justice Department investigation in 2015 for making false statements to Medicaid and Medicare. He and other doctors involved then paid a $525,000 civil settlement, according to the Justice Department.
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 the detainees were not given Covid-19 tests and other necessary 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 by unnamed immigrant detainees as well as by Wooten.
The facility houses immigrant inmates held by ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. It also houses Irwin County and US Marshals Service inmates.
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 detained immigrants at the center and Wooten.
Wooten was downgraded from a full-time nurse to an on-demand caregiver in July after missing work due to coronavirus symptoms. She said she believes the downgrade was in retaliation for concerns being raised about the coronavirus protocol, the complaint said.
She also said there hadn’t been enough active testing of immigrant inmates for the coronavirus and that the facility hadn’t “reported all positive cases,” meaning the number of cases at the facility may be much higher than ICE’s reported .
Elizabeth Mathren, an attorney who represented several women who met Amin through her work at the Southern Poverty Law Center, where she was employed from 2017 to 2019, said she escalated their grievances to the facility’s managers.
“Two to three years ago I had a face-to-face interview with (someone from management). that he was rude, that they were afraid to go to him, that they didn’t understand what he was doing,” said Elizabeth Mathren, who has represented several women through her work at the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2017.
Mathren, you’ve had at least one client who reported bruising after Amin’s exam.
But Mathren said despite concerns, immigrant women have continued to be sent to Amin. The facility is privately commissioned by LaSalle Corrections.
In a statement, a company spokesman said: “LaSalle Corrections has a strict zero-tolerance policy for any form of inappropriate behavior at our facilities and takes all allegations of such abuse seriously. Our company firmly denies these allegations and any implications of wrongdoing at the ICDC.”
In a statement, an attorney for Amin said: “We are aware of the whistleblower’s allegations regarding Dr. Risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.”
“We look forward to the full disclosure of the facts and are confident that Dr. Amin will then be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
Benjamin Osorio, another attorney representing women at the Irwin County facility, said two of his clients received hysterectomies that they believe may have been unnecessary.
One of the women, who is of childbearing potential, was told she would need a hysterectomy after Amin discovered ovarian cysts, Osorio said. She was told it was cancer, but her records show she was not given a biopsy to confirm the cancer, he said. In another case, he said, his client was told she had stage IV cervical cancer and would need a hysterectomy and chemotherapy. But after her hysterectomy, an oncologist in Charlotte said she didn’t have cancer, according to Osorio.
Another attorney, Sarah Owings, said she’s heard from many women who have been told they have ovarian cysts that need to be removed or drained.
“I don’t think this is necessarily a systemic sterilization by the ICE. I think that kind of thing can thrive in the wake of poor supervision and appalling, inhumane prison conditions,” Owings said.
In her complaint, Wooten said some of her patients told her they were afraid to go to a doctor, who they called “uterine collectors,” according to the complaint.
In an interview with NBC News, Wooten said, “I had an inmate who asked me, ‘What is he doing, Ms. Wooten, collecting all of our wombs?’ And I just looked at her confused because I didn’t know the answer.
“The new shocking revelations about the abuse of women’s bodies must result in the immediate closure of this horrific facility,” Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director at Project South, said in a statement. “ICE and the private prison company must be held accountable.”
In a statement on Wooten’s allegations, an ICE spokesman said: “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not comment on matters submitted to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the US Department of Homeland Security. ” . ICE takes all allegations seriously and leaves the question of any investigation and/or findings to the OIG. However, in general, anonymous, unsubstantiated allegations made without verifiable facts should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”
In response to the attorneys’ allegations of medical intervention, Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, said, “All female ICE inmates receive routine, age-appropriate gynecological and obstetric health care consistent with accepted community guidelines for women’s health services.” “
“According to the U.S. Immigration and Law Enforcement Enforcement (ICE), since 2018, only two individuals at the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to certified, accredited medical professionals at gynecologic and obstetric health care facilities for hysterectomies in accordance with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care ( NCCHC) standards. Based on their reviews, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations have been reviewed and approved by the facility’s clinical board.”
She added, “Out of respect for the process of the matters pending before the OIG, ICE is not making hasty comments on the reported allegations and ICE intends to fully cooperate with any resulting investigation by the OIG.”
The agency said it is committed to the safety and well-being of those in its custody and its facilities are subject to regular inspections. The Irwin County Detention Center has been repeatedly found to meet ICE performance standards, the agency said.
Destruction of medical claim forms
Wooten claimed in her complaint that when those at the ICE facility were given the opportunity to testify, men and women at the detention center “revealed overwhelmingly that they had not been tested for Covid-19 from March to August 18.” to be tested.
One woman reported that 100 women slept in a unit where women “were coughing, had fevers and had other ailments, but officers didn’t listen to them when they reported their health problems” and that they were never tested for Covid-19 , according to the statement complaint.
“After requesting that the sick women be taken to the medical ward, she reported that the women were eventually taken but were returned within an hour and given only pain medication,” the complaint reads.
Wooten also claimed that it was common for a male orderly to shred medical claim forms from inmates asking to go to the medical unit and falsify records such as vital signs without seeing the patient seek help, the report said Complaint.
ICE said in its spokesman’s statement that its epidemiologists have been continuously monitoring the outbreak, regularly updating its infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to staff on how to deal with potential exposure among detainees.
ICE announced 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 at all of its facilities, for a total of six deaths.
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