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Whistleblower claims high rate of hysterectomies and medical neglect in the ICE facility



Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse at the center represented by the Government Accountability Project and Project South, stated in a complaint that while some women may have needed a hysterectomy, “everyone’s uterus may not be that bad.”

The Government Accountability Project represents whistleblowers and Project South is a social justice organization. The complaint is also signed by several immigrant advancement organizations: Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network.

The complaint, which also raised a number of concerns about the facility’s handling of the coronavirus, received immediate responses from Democratic lawmakers.

“The allegations made in this whistleblower complaint indicate an alarming pattern of unsafe conditions and lack of oversight in privately owned ICE facilities,”

; Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. Adding allegations that hysterectomies are performed on women without consent is “incredibly worrying”.

The Thompson Committee is investigating conditions at ICE contractors’ facilities. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, called on the DHS Inspector General to investigate Wooten’s allegations.

“Everyone he sees has a hysterectomy – almost everyone. He even removed the wrong ovary from a young lady [detained immigrant woman]. She should have her left ovary removed because he had a cyst on his left ovary; he took out the correct one. She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left side and had a total hysterectomy, “explains Wooten in the complaint.

“She still wanted children – so now she has to go home and tell her husband that she cannot bear children … she said she was not fully anesthetized and heard him [doctor] Tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary, “she continued.

The complaint does not include the name of the gynecologist, the number of women allegedly forced to undergo the procedure, nor the time at which it occurred. ICE said it was not commenting on matters presented to the Inspector General.

“ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers any investigation and / or outcome to the (Inspector General’s Office). In general, anonymous, unsubstantiated allegations made with no factual details should be treated with the reasonable skepticism they deserve,” said the Agency.

According to Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, only two people at the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to certified, recognized health care professionals in gynecological and obstetric health care facilities for hysterectomies since 2018. “Based on their reviews, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations were reviewed and approved by the facility’s clinical authority,” Rivera said in a statement.

The Irwin County Detention Center, the facility at the center of the complaint, must adhere to the medical standards set by ICE in 2011. The standards state that “female inmates must receive routine, age-appropriate gynecological and obstetric health care that is consistent with recognized Community guidelines for women’s health care.”
According to these standards, health care services must be provided by personnel who are “licensed, certified, notarized, and / or registered” in accordance with applicable state and federal requirements.

Health care providers are selected by the facility from among local providers willing to accept ICE inmates as patients, an ICE official said, adding that the facility provider or clinical director may have community contacts in some cases that they routinely work together.

LaSalle Corrections, which operates the facility, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Wooten failed to elaborate on the hysterectomy allegations during a press conference in Georgia on Tuesday. However, Priyanka Bhatt, a Project South attorney, said that over the years “our coalition has heard from several women who have either performed a hysterectomy or spoken to other immigrants who have had a hysterectomy”.

A detained immigrant told Project South that between October and December 2019 she spoke to five different women at the Irwin County Detention Center who had a hysterectomy.

“When I met all these women who had been operated on, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they were experimenting with our bodies,” said the immigrant, whose name the organization did not disclose.

Leeann Culbreath, co-founder and co-chair of the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, a humanitarian organization, recalled conversations with a handful of incarcerated women over the past few years who shared concerns about gynecological care.

“We hear an alarming frequency from women who have had gynecological procedures,” said Culbreath. “Sometimes they didn’t have the opportunity to give their consent.”

The anecdotes in the whistleblower complaint confirmed Culbreath’s concerns. “That confirmed my worst fears about what might happen here,” she told CNN.

Wooten describes speaking to incarcerated women who did not fully understand why they had the medical procedure.

“I don’t think these migrant women really understand that this will happen, depending on who explains it to them,” said Wooten.

The complaint also alleges the facility did not take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which ultimately motivated Wooten to come forward.

“I started asking questions about why inmates shouldn’t be tested – symptomatic or non-symptomatic,” said Wooten. “But what broke your back and the last straw was looking in and living it yourself. When you get to work and find out that even though you get tested, you can report if CDC guidelines say you should Stay home and a doctor’s letter says you’ll stay home. ” . “

The allegations made by Wooten are similar to those that have surfaced across the country from immigrants detained in ICE facilities, according to court documents, lawyers and other whistleblowers. These include treating Covid-19 symptoms with over-the-counter cold medication, lack of social distancing, and rendition of inmates despite the increased risk of the virus spreading.

According to the complaint, Wooten had “asked ICDC supervisor David Paulk in March when the facility had its first Covid-19 case that stopped all transfers of people in and out of the facility, but the supervisor wasn’t listening.”

According to ICE statistics, a total of 43 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed at the Irwin County Detention Center. In total, there were more than 5,799 cases in ICE prisons nationwide.

This story has been updated with additional reports and reactions.


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