Prison inmates trained as medical orderliesThursday, April 23, 2020
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
SEVERAL inmates in the country's correctional facilities have been trained as COVID-19 medical orderlies, a direct response from the Ministry of National Security to prevent the spread of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus to that population.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Matthew Samuda revealed that the prisoners are trained to support medical staff across the country's 11 correctional facilities to carry out screenings, among other things.
Samuda explained that two or three well-behaved inmates are trained at each facility, with the larger prisons having three.
“...So they know how the put on the masks properly, they know how to sanitise properly, and they know how to do temperature checks — basic things. They [also] know how to escort people to the isolation areas without exposing themselves [and] have been taught how to put on the PPE [personal protective equipment],” said Samuda, who assumed responsibility for the country's penal system in February.
He added that the training was necessitated by the fact that medical personnel are not stationed at all the facilities daily, mentioning that the group visits when needed as staff is rotated between facilities.
“So if something happens and you need to move someone to the isolation area they, along with the guards, are the ones trained to ensure that proper movement takes place,” the minister said.
There is no confirmed case of COVID-19 within the country's correctional system.
At the same time, Samuda said there are inmates currently in isolation because they had to leave facilities for court visits.
He said, however, that isolation is the standard procedure once an inmate leaves a facility, and does not necessarily mean direct exposure to the infectious disease.
“We've ensured that we have isolation facilities within each of our DCS [Department of Correctional Services] facilities should anybody display any sort of symptoms. Our senior medical officer in Dr [Donna-Michelle] Powe has also been doing training with all the medical staff throughout DCS...,” the minister said, adding that resources needed in the event of an outbreak have already been delivered or are scheduled to be delivered.
“We've also instituted mask protocols where masks are being distributed throughout our facilities for staff, to protect inmates from staff since inmates are closed in. Now beyond that we had suspended visits to our facilities as well as suspended the delivery of items to inmates to prevent the virus from coming in,” said Samuda.
In light of this, he said the DCS has instituted and facilitated scheduled calls to allow inmates to remain in contact with family.
“We're also in the process of setting up digital calls to allow Skype-type [interaction] for them, because we understand the psychological impact of not being able to speak to family for such a long period. We, however, did have to extend the suspension until the end of May currently because of what the situation appears to be,” he said.
Other steps taken to prevent an outbreak include temperature checks, mandatory questionnaires upon entry at each facility, hand sanitiser distribution and the installation of wash stations at all prisons.
In a news release yesterday, the DCS said that its decision to extend the suspension of visits follows an increase in COVID-19 cases, especially in quarantined areas where correctional centres are located.
“While the DCS continues to provide meals for inmates, relatives and friends are reminded that they can continue to deposit money to the inmates'/wards' tuck shop cards. The maximum deposit per inmate or ward is $20,000, monthly,” the DCS said in a statement.
Deposits can be made at Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotia Centre Branch) to: Department of Corrections Project Fund via account number: 10908-7815.
Upon completing a deposit, relatives and friends are required to send a WhatsApp message to 876-319-1616 or e-mail email@example.com to advise of the deposit.
Family and friends of inmates are encouraged to contact the various institutions to make appointments to speak with inmates or wards. The number for each institution is listed on the DCS website at www.dcs.gov.jm.
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