New York, NY – Healthcare workers from Doctors Council SEIU, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and 1199 SEIU, among others, rallied at the Rikers Island bridge in East Elmhurst, New York this week to advocate for health, safety, and patient care, and to protest what they say is “mayhem and violence from inmates, who are detained in substandard conditions.”
Nurses, doctors, and physician assistants are all in danger due to a shortage of correction offices, as well as a failure to properly assign correction officers, and an inability of the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Correctional Health Services (CHS) of Health & Hospitals (H+H) to carry out existing policies, they say.
LaborPress spoke to Dr. Frank Proscia, president of the Doctors Council SEIU, the country’s largest union for doctors, to further outline the dangers healthcare workers at this facility face.
“The staff is quite dedicated as far as providing timely and needed care at Rikers and throughout the Rikers system…but unfortunately, not provided the proper support to do that. The Doctors Council SEIU, NYSNA, 1199 SEIU have been meeting with the DOC, the city and CHS, but those meetings have been unproductive and unable to provide the elimination of fear that doctors and others have,” Dr. Proscia said.
“Any delays in healthcare services lead to increased frustration and agitation among detainees. Imagine being a detainee with everything being taken away from you. Sometimes they may not even be produced – i.e. they remain on the unit or cell because the C.O.’s don’t bring them. Imagine you are a diabetic, have wounds, or fractures. You need to be cared for. And then there is the lack of security in clinics: poor assistance by C.O.’s. An inability by the DOC and CHS to make sure policies are adhered to. If a detainee has to be brought, sometimes they are not shackled, and they are harassing providers while the provider is trying to help someone else. Or you are a mental health provider. There is no line of sight between your office and the C.O. In July, one of our doctors had a shiv held up to his throat. The prisoner was shackled but had the shiv hidden on him.”
The Doctors Council president added, “If a crisis occurs on Rikers and there’s a lockdown, we have patients waiting to be seen, with services delayed maybe for a few more days. Prisoners are now crammed into buildings not built for proper intake. There can be 45 in a room, and one to three days of waiting. Sometimes no food for up to one day. It’s almost as if things are being done to irritate [the population]. It’s inhumane. Mental health detainees are sometimes kept in unsanitary pens, some without medications. [Another problem is] if there is a transfer of a detainee through EMS to a hospital, for example, Bellevue, for surgery or another type of care, paramedics have to wait for C.O.’s to escort them so delays are all over the place.”