From January 1, 2021, to May 31, 2022, Tattnall County Emergency Medical Services (TCEMS) responded to 73 calls from Rogers State Prison and 100 calls from Smith State Prison, a TCEMS report shows.
Joan Heath of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) provided information on the procedures in place for when EMS is called to one of their prisons. Blake Monroe, Assistant Director of TCEMS, also detailed his and his coworkers’ experiences of being called to the prisons.
An officer is supposed to escort the EMS personnel through the prison and to the patient upon arrival, according to Heath.
“It is our understanding that an officer is supposed to escort TCEMS personnel when inside the institutions. It is not uncommon for TCEMS personnel to enter through the front bunker and make their way through the institution to the medical floor without an escort,” Monroe said. “Once patient/inmate contact is made, there is usually an escort from that point forward. There are times when Department of Corrections (DOC) staff have requested and tried to require that TCEMS personnel be present in the actual cell blocks to retrieve injured or unresponsive inmates. It is against TCEMS practices for personnel to enter the cell blocks or “pods.” TCEMS personnel are not DOC employees, nor are they POST certified and trained to be in close contact with offenders in the cell block environment. When the patient/inmate is located in the cell block or pod, EMS will wait outside until the patient can be brought to them as directed by TCEMS administration.”
All prisons in Georgia have the same Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for when EMS is called, and Rogers and Smith State Prisons have their own nursing staff/doctor. Heath did not specify how many of these medical personnel are on staff.
“The relationship between the doctors and nurses is on a day-by-day basis,” Monroe said. “There are multiple qualified medical personnel who work at the prisons in the medical wards. It is always the goal of TCEMS to work hand-in-hand with those providing medical care to the patients that we respond to. As in any situation, there are times that the treatment plans and ideas differ between TCEMS and DOC staff, but it is always the belief of TCEMS that the best possible care of the patient is top priority. It is the belief of TCEMS that all patients are just that, patients. Any patient/inmate who TCEMS is called to treat is treated just as any other patient who TCEMS responds to; treatments are not based on their incarcerated state.”
All officers are trained for medical emergencies, and service trainings are held regularly, according to Heath.
“TCEMS is not a part of the trainings provided to DOC officers and staff, so the level of training cannot be spoken for. However, from personal experience, the extent of help that is usually provided doesn’t go much further than compressions during CPR, if needed. After hours when medical staff is not on site, the officers will bring the patients to TCEMS, usually with no medical interventions having been performed,” Monroe said. “It is of note that oftentimes, TCEMS providing the necessary patient care is delayed due to the DOC security staff not being prepared for inmate transport. There have been instances of transport being delayed with critical patients for upwards of 20+ minutes. This has been addressed by TCEMS administration with DOC staff on multiple occasions.”