A whistleblower lawsuit was filed against the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision for allegedly forcing a clinical physician with 40 years of experience to resign after he spoke out about medical practices within state prisons.
Dr. Michael Salvana, a physician who worked for the Department of Corrections from 2003 to 2020, said he was forced to leave his employment after he spoke out against a policy that prohibited him from prescribing certain medications to incarcerated individuals.
Dr. Salvana’s lawyer, Carlo de Oliveira Esq., an attorney with Cooper Erving & Savage and co-counsel in Dr. Salvana’s whistleblower lawsuit, said that incarcerated individuals should not be receiving different care than those outside prison.
“New York State Correctional facilities should not be used as an experimental medical facility,” de Oliveira said. “We fought a war in Europe because there were some experiments being done on others that were not appropriate. So New York state should not be using the inmates for experimental medication. When a treating physician or specialist makes a recommendation, that should be followed.”
The policy in question is the Department of Corrections’ Medications With Abuse Potential policy.
This protocol prohibits certain drugs from being prescribed because of their potential to be abused or cause addiction.
However, de Oliveira alleges, this policy has kept the doctor with 40 years of experience from treating patients how he sees fit.
The lawsuit lays out one case where a quadriplegic incarcerated individual was sent to the hospital multiple times due to dehydration caused by vomiting.
Dr. Salvana prescribed a medication that would have controlled the vomiting, but was denied.
He then also asked that the room be unlocked in case the incarcerated man begins to vomit and choke, but was denied again.
“That request was denied, resulting in Dr. Salvana making a complaint,” de Oliveira said. “And then as a result of the complaint, he was actually prohibited from continuing to treat this patient. And on this same day, he was actually escorted out and left outside until was actually called back in to meet with his supervisor. So it's outrageous conduct.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said they cannot comment on pending litigation at this time, but in a statement, said “the Department provides the community standard of medical care for all incarcerated individuals. All DOCCS facilities have medical staff on site and individuals have access to medical services on a daily basis through the facility’s sick call procedure. For the chronic or terminally ill, DOCCS provides specialized Regional Medical Units (RMUs) in selected facilities across the state.
When medically necessary, individuals may be transported to a community hospital for emergency treatment or other medical services. DOCCS has agreements with health care providers and specialists at major hospitals across the state, as well as agreements with several smaller hospitals in close proximity to its facilities to ensure the medical needs of incarcerated individuals are met. If more extensive care is necessary, the incarcerated individual may be moved to another hospital which can provide the additional services. DOCCS also collaborates with NYS DOH on a regular basis in providing care to the incarcerated population.”
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court Northern District of New York.