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Nassau jail’s medical provider bashed at rally

Inmates' advocates and former workers protested outside the Nassau County Correctional Center on Friday, March 4, 2016, calling for reform of the jail's medical care. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Activists rallied outside Nassau’s jail Friday to call for an investigation into why the county renewed the contract of the facility’s medical provider last year after the state had criticized the quality of health care.

Dean Hart, a Democrat who recently failed to win election to Nassau’s legislature, spoke along with a social worker and a former inmate behind the banner of the group he leads — Long Island Citizens for Good Government.

An optometrist whose theatrics have included giving out handcuffs to protest political corruption, Hart said the county should dump inmate health care vendor Armor Correctional Health Services and go back to using nearby Nassau University Medical Center.

“The state investigated their quality of care and it was woefully inadequate. What do we do? We give them another two years to be woefully inadequate,” Hart said.

The Glen Head resident also called for Sheriff Michael Sposato to be “thrown out.” He spoke of the 2014 custody death of Far Rockaway man Kevin Brown, 47, an inmate whose death the state Commission of Correction found was one of two Nassau jail fatalities that year that “may have been prevented.”

The commission has concluded Armor provided inadequate care in the cases of four Nassau inmates who have died since the Miami-based company first won a county contract in mid-2011.

Armor, which has repeatedly defended its quality of care, didn’t comment Friday. The Sheriff’s Department and County Executive Edward Mangano’s office also didn’t comment.

Bridie Bugeja, a Huntington psychotherapist who recently worked in a mental health program in the jail, said she had witnessed a poor standard of care. She said it took three weeks, and intervention by a correction official and herself, for an inmate to get treatment for a painful earache.

“Had this been an infectious disease, flu, virus, anything of that nature, if by the third week he has not been examined by a doctor, not only do the inmates get sick . . . any sort of virus could spread like wildfire,” Bugeja said.

Valhia Nicholas, 22, said she had debilitating menstrual cramps and wasn’t able to get over-the-counter medication for days when she was a Nassau inmate last year.

“I strongly feel that something needs to be done,” said the Suffolk resident, who has a felony drug case pending. “At the end of the day, no one should be treated inhumanely.”

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