Just as Corizon Health Services and the Alameda County Sheriff’s office wrap up the largest wrongful death lawsuit in the state’s history, we have news of a demonstration this past Wednesday in response to the death of another inmate with unmet medical needs.
The Contra Costa Times reports that around 150 protesters appeared outside the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to rally against the death of 29-year-old Oakland man, Mario Martinez. Martinez had been in jail on attempted murder and drug-related charges when he was ordered by the court to see a physician to treat his nasal polyps, which made it difficult for him to breathe. He also suffered from asthma, making his breathing problems even more serious.
Medical records indicate he had raised the issue of the polyps with Corizon doctors as early as December of last year, and repeatedly since then with the help of his family and lawyers, but obtained little relief or response. Requests for Martinez to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor were met with lengthy delays, and Corizon doctors presecribed nasal sprays that Martinez said made his condition worse.
Martinez’ attorney even had to secure more than one court order mandating Corizon treat his polyps, which were growing each month and obstructing his airways. His lawyer threatened to take Corizon staff to court for failing to abide by the orders. In response, an investigation by the local news station KTVU found that Corizon had “faxed a response to the judge that said “patient’s medical condition is being evaluated and treated.” As far as the jail and medical staff was concerned, the court order was satisfied.”
In June of this year, Martinez was finally brought to an outside doctor who found the polyps had created a “complete obstruction” to his breathing, giving him a referral for a CT scan in preparation for corrective surgery, but he never made it. Martinez collapsed and died on the floor of the jail a few weeks later.
Corizon is in the midst of a $237 million contract to provide health services to the Santa Rita Jail and Glen E. Dyer detention facility in Alameda County.