NM inmate sues medical care providers, state over massive bedsore

According to the lawsuit, the bedsore had worsened for three weeks before officials transferred him to a hospital to be treated for the wound


Phaedra Haywood
The Santa Fe New Mexican

GRANTS, NM — A lawsuit claims medical care providers at a state prison in Grants allowed a bedsore on a paraplegic inmate to develop into a cavernous hole through which bone was visible.

“We’ve seen so many pressure sore cases over the years, but this is by far the worst I’ve ever seen,” said attorney Parrish Collins who wrote in the complaint that the wound in the inmate’s lower back measured about 1.5 inches by nearly 2 inches and was about 1.5 inches deep.

His client, Dominick Mora-Solis, is a 28 year-old Albuquerque man who has been in and out of prison since he was arrested for trying to sell heroin to a detective who was working undercover as part of a drug sting in 2012.

Mora-Solis was shot in the chest by a police officer during that incident, according to reports at the time. But it’s not clear from those reports if that is the injury which caused him to lose the use of his legs.

According to the lawsuit, the bedsore had been worsening for three weeks before officials at Northwestern New Mexico Correctional Center transferred him to University of New Mexico Hospital in July 2018 to be treated for the wound, which was progressively eroding his sacrum, a bone at the base of the spine.

Doctors found he also had an infection in his urinary tract and hip bones and had developed sepsis — a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s immune response to infection — the complaint says.

Mora-Solis’ medical malpractice complaint names as defendants Centurion Correctional Healthcare of New Mexico and MHM Health Professionals — a company that his complaint says provides medical personnel to Centurion.

MHM’s website indicates the two companies are united under the Centurion name.

Centurion Managed Care — which has a $41 million per year contract to provide health care in the state’s 11 prisons — did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Mora-Solis also names as defendants the New Mexico Corrections Department and officials from Centurion and the state, saying they collectively provided or allowed him to be provided substandard medical care.

The complaint accuses state officials of failing to take corrective steps despite having knowledge that the company is providing “negligent and reckless” medical care.

“Instead, in conspiracy with Centurion, [the Corrections Department] routinely denies medical grievances and … has not found in favor of an inmate since at least 2012,” according to the lawsuit.

Mora-Solis’ complaint seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages plus interest and costs.

Collins — who has filed two other complaints this month on behalf of inmates alleging they developed serious infections as a result of medical negligence — said Tuesday he believes preventable infections have reached “epidemic” levels in the state prison system.

Centurion was awarded the state’s inmate medical services contract in 2016, after The New Mexican reported in April 2016 that the former provider, Corizon Health Inc., had been sued 150 times in the 9 years it held the contract by inmates alleging delayed, denied or substandard medical care.

The New Mexican reported in January 2018 that Centurion was sued 17 times in the first 20 months it had the contract.

At least a dozen more complaints have been filed since then, indicating the rate at which inmates are suing Centurion is similar to the rate which inmates sued its predecessor.

Under the current and previous contracts, inmate medical care providers are responsible for defending against claims against the providers but also are allowed to keep the details of any settlements they pay in connection with those claims secret, something civil rights attorneys and open government advocates say keeps the public in the dark about problems in the state prison system.

The New Mexico Department of Corrections remains without a leader — or a spokesperson — after Secretary-designate Julie Jones withdrew her candidacy for the position in February.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s spokesman said in an email Monday that the governor’s office had no comment on this lawsuit and another recently filed by Collins.

Asked at a press conference in early February whether she supported making public the terms of settlements paid in response to inmate lawsuits, the governor said: “We’re going to look at that issue and see exactly what decisions we need to make so we can be as transparent as possible.”

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©2019 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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