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Doctor: Healthcare at Augusta State Medical Prison hindered by widespread, systematic problems

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF)- An Augusta State Medical Prison doctor spoke with NewsChannel 6 on the night before his last day of work at the prison after 16 years. Dr. Timothy Young says he tried to shed light on issues at the facility in the Fall, but faced retaliation. He turned in his resignation letter at the end of December.

NewsChannel 6 has also heard complaints about the prison from former Correctional Officers and the mothers of inmates, including Debbie Whitlock.

She has no illusions about who her son is.

"My son is a repeat drug offender," she said. "He's an addict and a dealer. Methamphetamines."

Anthony an inmate at Augusta State Medical Prison. He's also a father. Debbie now has custody of his three-year-old daughter, Georgia. Anthony is also sick. Debbie debated whether she should even let Georgia visit him because, even though he's up for parole in three years, she's afraid his time at ASMP will turn into a death sentence.

"I fear for his life," she said. "He might go low. He's a type 1 diabetic, and nobody's coming."

Debbie says his kidneys have been failing since before he was arrested in 2016.

Former Augusta State Medical Prison physician Dr. Timothy Young says the healthcare system at the facility has a lot of problems, from black mold, to lack of security officers, to a backlog of a thousand requests for medical care.

"There are more patients than I can remember right now or count…[that] by the time we got them up, they went directly from my clinic to MCG."

Those hospital visits come at the expense of patients' health and taxpayers.

Debbie says her son ended up in the hospital last year, even though she had been in touch with administators about her son's health problems for months.

"If you have a family member that goes to the hospital or is really sick, you're not going to get to see them. You're not going to get to talk to them," she said. "It is like pulling teeth to get information. It's the most scary, horrible thing I've ever been through."

Dr. Young says one reason for the backlog is security issues. High-risk inmates must be escorted to the medical area by a security officer, and there just aren't enough of them, Young says.

"My job became calling someone high enough up the security chain to make lower security officers bring those inmates up," he said.

And when inmates end up the hospital, two secuirty officers have to go with them. When we spoke with Dr. Young earlier this week, he said the operating room was offline.

"They're not doing cases in it because of a maintenance issue that has been known about for quite some time," he said.

He says they are also short a physician and bed space.

"So someone would bring me a list, and say, 'Okay, we have four beds available to put these patients into, and we have 15 cases scheduled. Which 11 do you want to cancel?'"

He showed us one email he sent about inmates being rescheduled up to 23 times because security failed to bring them to appointments.

"It's a multi-faceted problem. And it's getting worse because you have a facility that can't even handle the cases that can be done there," he said.

In the meantime, Debbie worries about her son hanging on for the next few years, and Georgia dreams of seeing her Daddy again on the outside.

The Department of Corrections has not responded to our calls and messages. The DOC's top health official, Randy Sauls, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he is personally overseeing a plan to improve sanitation and security at the prison.

Dr. Young says he has not seen details of the plan and has no faith in it. Sauls did respond to an interview request.

We also reached out to Augusta University, which oversees Georgia Correctional Healthcare. We will let you know if and when they respond.


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