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3 deaths in 2 months at Tutwiler

WETUMPKA (AP) — The third death of an inmate in two months at Tutwiler Prison for Women has raised more questions about the quality of care provided for prisoners.

Officials said Mattie Bouie, 42, died last week at Baptist Hospital South in Montgomery — six months after a federal court monitor cited her case as an example of "no effective physician monitoring of patients" at the Wetumpka prison.

Bouie's death was the sixth at the women's prison since Tennessee-based Prison Health Services took over the medical contract.

PHS, citing patient confidentiality, has refused to comment on the deaths.

But in a statement Saturday, PHS Vice President Benjamin S. Purser, Jr. said the company is certain that "once all the facts are in, the care this patient received from our dedicated medical staff will be demonstrated to have been appropriate."

Court-appointed monitor

Court monitor Dr. Michael Puisis has suggested that negligent care was responsible for at least two deaths. He has not released mortality reports on the other cases. A federal court appointed Puisis last year after the state settled a lawsuit over poor conditions and medical care at the prison. The Department of Corrections agreed to improvements and increased staff at the facility, and Puisis is responsible for monitoring the agency's progress toward achieving those goals.

Unfavorable reports

His reports have not reflected favorably on the prison's health care system.

Puisis wrote in a December 2004 report that Bouie suffered from an "undiagnosed severe debilitating neurological disease for almost two years without diagnosis." He said she "appeared to have been lost to follow-up" after she finally did see a neurologist.

Puisis said it was "clear that there is no effective physician monitoring of patients on this unit," citing a lack of treatment plan, failure to watch vital signs and other shortcomings.

After Bouie's death last week, Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said Bouie had been monitored but "was terminally ill with multiple systems failures."

Prison officials have also cited terminal illness as the cause of death for inmate Edna Britt, 42, who died March 23.

Autopsy, details denied

Britt's family said officials have not fulfilled its requests for an autopsy report and further details about Britt's death. Relatives said she had breast cancer and was recovering from a mastectomy when she was placed in a disciplinary cell shortly before her death.

Bouie re-entered the prison on a parole violation in 2002 after previously serving time for writing bad checks and robbery convictions.

"She'd been sitting there on this parole violation and just deteriorating," said Venessa Filley, an investigator with the Southern Center for Human Rights. The Atlanta-based law firm represents prisoners in the lawsuit.

Filley said she and other attorneys were trying to obtain medical records of deceased inmates.

"We've been asking for them repeatedly," Filley said. "We're hoping that the mortality review will give us some answers."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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