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According to a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA), the Ministry’s response comes in the wake of a letter captioned "Prison Inmates with respiratory problems should not be given certain tasks" that was published on Saturday October 26, 2002 in the Stabroek News.
The letter stated that "prisoners that currently execute this task -- that of Environmental Health at the Camp Street Prison -- are mostly inmates with current or past respiratory infections”. They are usually located within the section of the prison where inmates with tuberculosis are located.
It was also alleged that "these same inmates are chosen for this task where the potential for an epidemic in the prison population is very high."
The letter further stated that inmates infected with tuberculosis are not being "isolated" and of a "test screening programme" held only for officers and not prisoners as well, GINA reported.
As a routine, prisoners who are admitted, undergo a complete physical examination and assessment. Once a prisoner is diagnosed with tuberculosis or other medical problems, appropriate actions are taken to provide care and treatment. If the findings suggest that prisoners should be referred to hospitals or specialist clinics, this is speedily done, GINA said.
In cases of tuberculosis or suspected tuberculosis the prisoner is referred to the Chest Clinic and all directions are adhered to after that, the release stated.
Tuberculosis or Koch's infection, in this case Pulmonary Tuberculosis, is caused by the Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, and once diagnosed and proper treatment started, the patient can be deemed non-infectious two or three weeks after treatment has begun. However, the patient is not allowed to mix freely until two sputum cultures are negative. Treatment can vary from every six months to once a year or longer, GINA said.
The concerned correspondents dealt with the prison kitchen, again citing some erroneous "facts". The truth is that prisoners entering the kitchen and other specific sections to execute assigned tasks are routinely and specifically examined. They must be deemed appropriately fit before a written approval is granted for them to work in the specific section, GINA reported.
It has been observed that once a person has been identified as a "TB case" the label and stigma tend to follow that person for the rest of his/her life. The Guyana Prison Service takes direction and guidance from representatives of the Ministry of Health in these situations, GINA said.
According to the GINA release, the writers took time and space to cast aspersions on the availability, schedule and work performance of the newly installed Prison Medex. The resident and roving Medex, supported by nursing and other para-medical personnel, executes the prison's health care requirements and mandate adequately and within the limitations of resources. The Medex and staff are always busy doing what they are being paid to do and the Prison Service remains ever grateful to them.
It must be noted that a prisoner, who is on prolonged treatment and is deemed non-infectious and has had two negative sputum cultures done, is not being deprived of doing simple chores such as fetching a television set from one section to another, GINA said.
Tuberculosis infection in prison is not markedly different to the disease in the wider society, but there is the potential for greater infection risks in confined settings, the release stated.
As an institution guided by the Ministry of Health, the Georgetown Prison is mindful of the implications of inmates afflicted with various diseases or illnesses. Appropriate measures are always implemented in the interest of the welfare of both the afflicted and the general prison population. The point is that the administration is aware of and alert to these situations, the release added.
The Ministry respects the people's rights to their opinions but would urge research and accuracy before publication in the media.
The Ministry therefore chooses to ignore the view of "concerned relatives" on the 19th thanksgiving anniversary theme and mission that makes sense. Issues related to the system and implementation of parole have already been clarified, GINA said.
The release further stated that additionally, the Ministry urges "concerned relatives " and correspondents to maintain their interest in this subject. The interest however, should be informed by careful assessments, consultations with the authorities and honest reflections when going public.
The release also commended correspondents who have shown a genuine interest in both the "current process of character reformation, or rehabilitation of the prisoners" while addressing issues of environmental health at the Camp Street Prison. (Government Information Agency)