THE Research and Advocacy Unit has bemoaned the state of healthcare delivery in prisons citing shortage of staff and medication needing urgent redress.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
In a policy brief released on Wednesday, RAU urges government and prison administrators to ensure that inmates right to is adequately protected and clearly stipulated.
“Therefore, prison administrations have a responsibility to ensure that inmates receive proper health care and that prison conditions promote the wellbeing of both prisoners and prison staff. Health care staff must deal with inmates primarily as patients and not prisoners.
“However, even though most prisons in Zimbabwe provide health care services there is inadequate health care personnel, independent clinics, secondary care, scarcity of medication,” the organisation said.
Added the organisation, “The State must also prioritise the provision of health care for inmates with mental illness this includes ensuring that psychologists and psychiatrists proportional to the number of inmates are deployed to prisons. There is need to incorporate prison health care under the Ministry of Health rather than the Ministry of Justice. Such a move will bring the prison health service up to the standards of the community health care.”
RAU also said there is need for Viral load machines to be put in prisons to monitor the viral load of people living with HIV/AIDS. “Cancer screening machines need also to be placed in prisons so that inmates get screenings regularly. There is also the need to ensure that there is proper ventilation in prison cells to minimize the spread of airborne diseases such as Tuberculosis,” the organisation said.
The RAU survey summarised the plight related to the prisoners’ health. “The general conditions of the prisons are not conducive for the maintenance of good health. The overcrowding contributes to the deterioration of the physical conditions of prison premises and to the quick spread of communicable diseases. Poor sanitary conditions contribute to disease, including diarrhoea, measles and other related illnesses. Poor diet and unhygienic facilities do not enhance the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS, Cancer, Sugar diabetes to mention a few. The most common disease that inmates who are HIV positive succumb to is Tuberculosis(TB). TB is also the most common opportunistic infection among people living with HIV in Africa. The overcrowding, poor ventilation and poor prevention practices dramatically increase the risks of TB transmission in prisons. The combination of the high prevalence of both TB and HIV in prisons is responsible for a high mortality rates amongst prisoners,” the survey noted.
The Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU] is an independent non-governmental organisation which conducts researches on human rights and governance issues.
Below is the full report