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HomeIssue 49The patient in the next bed may be in chains

The patient in the next bed may be in chains

By ERWIN CHLANDA

The Alice Springs prison, which has a capacity of about 600 inmates, has a section where prisoners can receive medical attention.

Trouble is, it is not staffed at night and when a prisoner is taken ill after dark he’s taken to the Alice Springs hospital.

Not a big deal one may say, except when there are no empty rooms and a non-custodial sick person trying to get some rest is confronted by two prison officers with a criminal in chains who is being shackled to the second bed in the small room.

The original occupant is separated from the new involuntary patient by no more than a blue fabric curtain.

The prisoner then is attended to by one or two nurses and a doctor – all up quite a crowd for a small room.

The prisoner also shares the bathroom.

The fact that the windows cannot be opened adds to a feeling of claustrophobia.

The prisoner this morning coughed, spat and swore.

The room’s original occupant this morning (the writer) was not asked his consent about sharing the facilities. He wasn’t even told he was going to be.

Timid souls could experience some apprehension about the prisoner – a large, young man, breaking loose and wreaking havoc.

The two prison officers (pictured in the Medical East hallway) and the hospital staff – noted for its skills and experience in a region with massive morbidity – handled the situation diplomatically.

But when all that happens at four o’clock in the morning the question begging is: How come there is not a 24/7 health service in the correctional centre? Or, in the case where hospitalisation is necessary, reserved rooms in the hospital?

 

Last updated 7 December 7.50am

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