An investigation this summer at Augusta State Medical Prison uncovered multiple health and safety issues for inmates and staff.
According to the Aug. 31 report prepared by the Environmental Health and Safety Division of Augusta University, more than one of the issues were also cited in previous inspections. For example, fire extinguishers have not been inspected monthly as required since 2014.
The inspector also noted a fire hazard was present in the operating room corridors because they are congested with equipment and supplies. “This is a significant fire safety violation,” wrote Phil Young, the director of the Environmental Health and Safety Division. It was also a violation noted last year, he said.
Other fire hazards included surge protectors on the floor and an electrical outlet without a cover plate.
The Georgia Department of Corrections is in charge of the prison located on the Gordon Highway between Richmond and Columbia counties. The 775-bed facility houses regular prisoners and those in need of medical care. Georgia Correctional HealthCare, a division of Augusta University, has the contract to provide medical services at the prison.
The director of the public information office, Joan Heath, said no one with the Department of Corrections was available to discuss the conditions at Augusta State Medical Prison. Instead, she provided this statement:
“The GDC is aware of the concerns about cleanliness at ASMP. The health and safety of offenders, staff, and contract healthcare providers is a top priority. We recognize the importance of maintaining an appropriate cleaning and maintenance program, and steps are being taken to address the issues identified in the most recent audit.”
According to a document provided to The Augusta Chronicle, 12 inspection issues are or have been corrected two days before the report was sent to the health services administrator at the prison on Aug. 31.
The inspection, which was done July 13-18, pointed to several areas where water was leaking from the ceiling in the pharmacy area and in the operating room, creating an environment for mold. The same issue was raised last year, according to the report.
Testing of a sample of mold from the dental clinic area was positive for stachybotrys. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stachybotrys can cause upper respiratory distress symptoms such as coughing in healthy people. It also can trigger asthma attacks and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in people who are asthmatic and ill.
Plumbing issues were noted, as were a broken sink and dirty surfaces and floors, according to the inspection report.
Also of concern to the inspector was security. “… I observed a lack of security. … There were residents moving freely about the area with no security personnel in sight.” He also found an unlocked gate and dormitory door.
The safety concern was not listed in the document listing the Department of Corrections’ plans for corrective action.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.