Ex inmate blasts Risdon’s healthcare

A FORMER Risdon inmate who suffered from gallbladder attacks says he stockpiled Panadol to avoid seeing doctors in prison, but the Health Department insists the service is well-resourced and of a high standard.

The Launceston man, who was jailed for four months from January this year, said he suffered gallbladder problems before his imprisonment but his condition was exacerbated by poor healthcare and inadequate nutrition.

The man said he was placed on what he was told was a low-fat diet without warning or explanation about three months into his sentence.

His diary, part of which was given to The Examiner, detailed the meals he was fed while in Risdon: peanut butter, sausages and salami were prominent.

The man said the care he received from the Correctional Primary Health Service did not help his condition and that by the end of his sentence he preferred to take Panadol to alleviate his symptoms rather than ask for help.

Gallbladder attacks are characterised by severe stomach pain and are associated with vomiting, diarrhoea and chest pain. They can last between minutes or hours and in extreme cases require hospitalisation.

The former inmate credited his diet for the eight gallbladder attacks he suffered while in prison. He said he has not had one since he was released.

‘‘I refused medical assistance at one point because it was so appalling,’’ he said.

‘‘I became really frustrated. I was really stressed by the end of it.’’

A Tasmanian Health Service spokesman said inmates were given the same high standard of healthcare as that of the wider community.

He said the Correctional Primary Health Service’s five days a week service was complemented by 24/7 nursing staff and an after-hours on-call service.

‘‘CPHS has no record of a formal complaint from the patient in question about his healthcare at Risdon made either during his time in prison or since,’’ he said.

‘‘We encourage patients to raise concerns at the time of the issue so that appropriate action can be taken at the time.

‘‘If an inmate needs a specific diet for medical reasons, they are reviewed by CPHS and a request is then sent to the prison kitchen.’’

Prisoner advocate and lawyer Greg Barns argued the service was ill-equipped to deal with the high needs of its 497 inmates.

‘‘It’s grossly under-resourced,’’ Mr Barns said.

‘‘This is not 500 fit young men. This is a group of people with higher than usual rates of mental and physical illness.

‘‘I don’t condemn the doctors. It is just a chronic lack of resourcing.’’

The THS spokesman said inmates were supported by more than 40 full-time medical and allied health staff.

‘‘Prisoners who require specialist treatment receive that treatment off-site within clinically appropriate time frames,’’ he said.

‘‘Staff are employed from a variety of specialists areas, including mental health.’’

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