Corradino inmate who lost kidney to lack of treatment administered meds a day late

The Correctional Manager at Corradino Correctional Facility admitted that an inmate who required anti-rejection medication had received one dosage a day late

The inmate was given an injection a day late because of logistical problems
The inmate was given an injection a day late because of logistical problems

The Correctional Manager at Corradino Correctional Facility has told the Court of Criminal Appeal that an inmate who is claiming to have lost his transplanted kidney because he was not given anti-rejection drugs during his incarceration, had received treatment almost immediately after entering prison.

Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, judge David Scicluna and judge Joseph Zammit McKeon are hearing an urgent request for bail filed by 36-year-old Christopher Bartolo of Fontana, Gozo, in order to allow him to receive medical treatment.

Bartolo had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and fined €15,000 last April after he pleaded guilty to trafficking 1.5kg of cannabis resin to avoid a trial by jury.

In a judicial protest filed on 31 July by lawyer Maxilene Pace after Bartolo's admission to Corradino Correctional Facility in April, he claims that he was not being given the right food or medical care by the prison authorities. The next day, lawyers Franco Debono filed a court application, requesting bail pending the hearing of Bartolo's appeal in order to allow him to continue to receive dialysis treatment for his kidney condition.
Bartolo says that he had lost his transplanted kidney because, while in prison, he had not been administered the anti-rejection drugs normally given to transplant patients.

This morning, the defence informed the court that a medical specialist who was asked to testify today had not turned up. The Chief Justice warned the defence not to depend on the goodwill of the witnesses to appear in future, but to use court summons. 

Debono informed the court that the defence wanted to exhibit a copy of the man's medical file but, due to the technical language used, this should be explained by a medical consultant. At this stage, the court rejected the request to present the report until the medical consultant could be summoned to do so.

Debono also presented a report from the prison medical officer which explained the man's condition in layman's terms.

Savior Lia, Correctional Manager at Corradino Correctional Facility took the witness stand today, explaining that Bartolo's care plan was not restricted to medical treatment but also incorporated psychological therapy and drug rehabilitation. “Presently, he is being taken 3 times a week for dialysis. When he was admitted, we were aware of his condition. We would take him for doctors' appointments and medical reviews. After one review at Mater Dei Hospital he was kept there due to a deterioration of his kidney conditions. He was in hospital from 19 June to 4 July.”

There was no specific explanation for his deterioration, he said, adding that Bartolo had been taking certain medications before he was admitted.

He had later been readmitted to hospital for an unrelated condition and was discharged the next day. His dialysis began after his first discharge. He was being taken for dialysis three times per week, the witness said.

Asked by the court whether there had been any abnormal developments between the two discharges, the witness said: “We carried on following the instructions from Mater Dei Hospital. If he was sent for a review, we would adjust treatment as advised.”

Lawyer Giannella Busuttil from the Office of the Attorney General's office asked about the man's request to be admitted to a drug rehabilitation programme.

“On 8 May he applied for rehab, 9 May it was discussed on the board. As a rule, 6 months must elapse before an inmate becomes eligible for the programme but in the light of his circumstances, we felt an exception could be made.” He was assigned to Caritas and on 1 June made first contact with the organisation.

But Bartolo had not wanted to submit to the drug rehabilitation regime, the prison manager said. “Caritas informed him that visits from family would be very limited at the beginning, but he wanted to carry on having visits like in prison. Caritas gives priority to those who are more motivated to follow the structure of the programme.”

Chief Justice Camilleri chided the inmate. “Mr. Bartolo you got yourself into this drug problem. If you really wanted to solve it you must be prepared to make sacrifices. If not, you will never succeed. In the court's experience, people experience this miraculous Damascene conversion when they have the prospect of a prison sentence hanging above them...first you must decide that you want to lose the problem, then you must decide to obey those in charge. Then you will progress.”

The manager informed the court that Bartolo was regularly attending psychological therapy, received an injection once a week and was receiving the treatment recommended by his medical consultant.

Cross-examining the witness, lawyer Franco Debono asked if Bartolo had been given an injection late on one occasion. This had happened once, the witness replied, upon Bartolo's admission to prison. He was given the injection a day late because of logistical problems. Another medication was delivered late and the timings of his dosage had to be altered accordingly.

Three weeks ago, Bartolo was given a diet plan and the prison kitchen had not adhered to it, so the witness had to send further instructions until the issues with the man's diet were resolved, he explained. “There is a list of things he can eat and can't eat...related to his renal condition.”

Debono asked if any specialised nurse had been assigned to Bartolo. “No. The resources don't allow this,” the manager replied.

“Had his condition deteriorated in prison?” Debono asked, but the Chief Justice disallowed the question as the witness was not a medical expert.

Debono suggested that the man had started using illegal drugs to overcome chronic pain and had stopped after his arrest, but the judge pointed out that the man's charges date back to May 2013. “It appears that since then he seems to have had some involvement with drugs. You'd better try and convince him to stop taking them if he wants to leave here in good health.”

The fact that he stopped after being arrested meant “absolutely nothing,” the judge said, adding that in his experience relapses into drug use would often happen after release from custody.

The case continues on Friday 11 August, a decree on the man's bail request is expected to be made by 17 August.

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