A union official at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, says corrections officers are victimized twice when they are involved in an incident with an inmate.
Once with the inmate himself and the other with the rules of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC).
“Our officers, from time to time, have inmates throw body fluids in their face – urine, feces, other body fluids,” Randy Hiles of Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) Local 7330, said. “And when this happens, naturally the concern of the officer is if the inmate is HIV positive or has some other infectious disease.”
Hiles said that is where the process begins.
“They are seen at the prison first by the medical staff. The medical staff at SOCF tells them, before they go the outside hispital, to be checked after 90 days,” Hiles said. “The officer gets to the local emergency room, they’re checked and if they choose to take the anti-prophylactic, which essentially prevents a possible spread of the HIV infection, the hospital tells them to be checked when they leave after 30 days, 60 days and then 90 days. But then if they do have to be checked they have to pay for it themselves.”
Hiles said the medical staff at SOCF tells the officers to be checked after 90 days.
“That is where the craziness sets in because I have always been told you have 72 hours to start this medication cocktail to prevent the possible infection,” Hiles said. “I called the local hospital and asked their occupational health nurse and she said two hours. The quicker the officer gets this medication started in their system the more of a chance they have to prevent the infection from setting in.”
The Daily Times posed the question as to the policy in such incidents to the DRC.
“Testing is offered immediately, six weeks, 12 weeks and six months post exposure as identified on DRC form 5188 and as identified in Staff Blood Exposure Medical Protocol C-1,” JoEllen Smith of the DRC said. “This protocol is developed in accordance with guidelines from the Department of Health. If there is clinical disagreement we typically respect the employees wishes. If we cannot come to an agreement, the employee is advised to follow their primary care physician’s instructions utilizing their insurance or file a BWC claim.”
Hiles said the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) is the governing agency over the policy. He said Workers’ Compensation does not cover the subject.
“If I get hurt at work naturally I am covered under Workers’ Compensation,” Hiles said. “Workers’ Comp doesn’t cover because the officer wasn’t hurt in this incident.”
He said instead it is also not covered by Occupational Injury Leave (OIL),” Hiles said. “That’s when an officer is directly assaulted by an inmate. It isn’t covered by OIL because the officer wasn’t physically assaulted. In the middle of all this administrative B-S is that the officer is guilty of nothing but performing his job duties. The only time Workers’ Comp will pay this is if the officer does come down with the HIV virus or other infectious disease.”
Hiles said one thing after another adds to the complication of the incident.
“One of the side effects of the medication is that it makes you deathly sick,” Hiles said. “But they are still forced to come to work.”
Hiles said he also asked the local hospital’s pharmacist what the protocol at the hospital is if one of their employees is exposed to possible infectious diseases. He said he was told they were put off work for 30 days because it makes them sick.
“Officers are forced to come to work. I ‘ve seen one officer who could not hold his head up he was so sick,” Hiles said. “He was either in the bathroom pukin’ or on the toilet. So how is this staff member supposed to defend himself in the event he is assaulted by an inmate and there is a very good chance that it could happen at Lucasville because that’s the type of inmates that we have.”
Hiles said an officer he knows has gone through the process three times and has been told by medical personnel – “your liver is fried.”
“He was so sick one time he was hosptialized because the medication had made him so sick,” Hiles said. “He was written up by the administration because he used an excessive amount of sick time. I had to file grievences to try to get his sick time back and I only got 112 of 120 hours of his time back.”
“DRC does not ‘force’ employees to return to work when they are sick,” Smith said. “In fact, in some cases we require a release from a physician stating the employee can return to work after a period of being ill.”
Smith said all staff is responsible for observing proper infection control activities while completing work duties. She said required precautions are specified in the Department Infection Control Plan fully detailed in Department Policy 68-MED-18, Infection Control Activities, and other cited policies and protocols. According to Smith, staff are also responsible for the proper management and handling of infectious waste as described in Department Policy 10-SAF-13, Infectious Waste Management.
10-SAF-13 reads -“Nearly all categories of infectious waste depend upon the presence or the possibility of presence of infectious agents. The exceptions to this are blood, blood products, and cultures, which are always considered infectious waste”
Hiles was asked why there is a larger prevalence of violent activity at SOCF than other institutions.
“The reason it’s such an issue at Lucasville is because we’re so isolated from the rest of the state,” Hiles said. “Every prison has a small percentage of their population who are disruptive and creates a disturbance at it’s prisons. At Lucasville, 100 percent of our inmate population is made up of all these other prisons’ small percentages. So we have the most aggressive and most assaulting inmates in the state of Ohio.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
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