Otago prisoner crippled by lack of medical treatment

A few months ago, Whenu Knight was a prisoner in Otago.  He tore his archilles tendon playing touch rugby and now he can hardly walk. Here’s the video link about his shoddy medical treatment on TV3.  Here’s the same story on RNZ’s Checkpoint.

This story follows the publication of the far more tragic story about Richard Barriball, who died in Otago prison in September 2010, and Jai Davis who died four months later – both because of poor medical treatment. See Otago prisoner death investigated.

Olive McCrae, advocate for Mr Knight, wants anyone else who has a similar story about inadequate medical treatment in Otago prison to contact her. She says:

“I encourage all other people with similar experiences to contact me at olive dot mcrae at gmail dot com.  We are building a case of people’s stories for a more indepth look at this important issue.”

Here’s the hard copy from TV3:

A Dunedin man says he was forced to hobble around Otago’s Milton Prison with a ruptured Achilles tendon after being denied adequate medical attention. Whenu Knight says prison medical staff told him it was just a sprain and to take painkillers, but he’s now facing major reconstructive surgery.

Limping about is not Knight’s usual style, but since rupturing his Achilles in July, he’s had no choice. Knight instantly knew he’d done some serious damage playing touch in Otago’s Milton Prison, but nurses diagnosed a sprain. He claims it was five days before he saw a doctor.

“I went in to see the doctor and the doctor also said it was just a sprain and there was nothing to it and to keep taking my Panadols,” he says. Four weeks later he was released and took himself straight to his GP. “The doctor had a look at it and straight away said, ‘This is a ruptured Achilles tendon.’ There’s a huge deficit there.”

Medical records show he has a neglected Achilles rupture, which requires major reconstructive surgery because the delayed primary treatment was ruled out. Sports physician, Dr Mark Fulcher, says “The tendon will heal, but it will heal long and often you will have a loss of power and loss of ability to push off on your leg.”

Knight’s spent more time in New Zealand’s prisons than out. He rates the healthcare in Milton as the worst in the country. “We’re human beings,” he says. “We’re treated like cattle. We’re treated like numbers. They don’t even look us eyeball to eyeball. It’s just, ‘What’s your symptoms? What you got? Okay here’s a Panadol.’ We’re treated like cattle in there. We’re human beings. They don’t even look us in the eye.”

His complaints come hot on the heels of a police investigation into the deaths of two other inmates who died in Milton Prison. While the Corrections Department says it won’t discuss individual cases. Knight hopes that by speaking out he might help improve conditions for inmates still in there.

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