A legal advocacy group has recently filed a complaint on behalf of a nurse who works in a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in Georgia where immigrants were subjected to lack of COVID-19 safety measures, and a high number of hysterectomies.
The nurse identified as Dawn Wooten has been in the profession for over 10 years, three of which she worked at Irwin County detention centre in Georgia. The centre is run by LaSalle Corrections a private corporation. Wooten in her complaint has criticized the practices at the centre.
The Government Accountability Project and Project South, the human rights legal groups, has filed a complaint accusing the centre of poor sanitary conditions and lack of safety. Project South had complained about the centre in 2017 as well regarding its poor safety conditions.
Wooten revealed that women who were detained were unable to understand the reason behind getting a hysterectomy done. Hysterectomy is a surgery where a part of the uterus or the entire of it is removed. The campaigners informed that the centre has a bed capacity of 1,200 and around 500-800 people are in the centre presently.
During a press conference, Wooten said, "I became a whistleblower, now I'm a target." While speaking to the reporters, she revealed about the misconduct by the centre and how she was demoted when she protested against the irregularities and staying at home while she had developed COVID-19 symptoms.
According to a report by The Guardian, an off-site doctor was responsible for performing the surgeries on women who suffered from severe menstrual problems. The complaint also mentioned that nurses used to seek consent from the patients by "simply Googling Spanish."
"Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy-just about everybody. That's his speciality, he's the uterus collector. Everybody's uterus cannot be that bad," Wooten said.
According to the complaint, the procedure allegedly violated the health and safety protocols. A woman who was detained in the centre complained of improper use of anaesthesia during the surgery and even heard the doctor say that he removed the wrong ovary by mistake.
"When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they're experimenting with our bodies," a detainee stated.
The complaint also mentioned about the lack of social distancing in the centre amid the pandemic and the centre's efforts to hide the positive cases and mixing the COVID-19 patients with the non-COVID patients.
However, the agency's spokesperson, Lindsay Williams said that they have taken a serious note of the allegations, and are committed to the safety and welfare of those in custody.
"Anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate scepticism they deserve," Williams said.
An ICE spokesperson said, "ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees."
A Georgia state representative, Bob Trammell asked for the suspension of the licenses of all the providers mentioned in the complaint urging the composite medical board and nursing board of the state to conduct a complete investigation.
He also urged the state to start investigating the other Ice Detention centres in Georgia including Stewart detention centre and Robert A Deyton detention centre.