Report finds multiple Covid protocol failures at prison

Three staff were assaulted today at the Otago Corrections Facility. Photo ODT Files
A damning audit of Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) has exposed numerous shortcomings in the prison’s Covid-19 preparations.

The emergence of the scathing report from last week - which was leaked to the Otago Daily Times - comes just days after it was revealed a Mt Eden Prison inmate had tested positive for the virus.

Corrections regional commissioner Ben Clark said the issues  at the prison near Milton in South Otago would be addressed immediately and compliance would continue to be monitored.

The OCF audit firstly showed there was no physical distancing observed in the gate house, a "very high traffic area" with 20 staff members in the vicinity at one point.

Despite it being the entrance and funnel point to the prison, staff were not asking any Covid-19 screening questions of those arriving.

"It was noted some staff were clearly unwell entering site," the report writer observed.

While there was a thermal camera being used to check people’s temperature as they arrived, those in control of it said they had not received any training on how to use it.

The failures also extended to those tasked with receiving delivery drivers.

They admitted to the auditor they were not asking screening questions, nor were they using temperature-checking technology.

"Well, yes we should do ... now you mention this," one of those on duty said in response.

Mistakes were also identified in the receiving office, the area which processes new inmates on their arrival.

Staff mentioned they had run out of personal protective equipment.

Corrections’ guide prescribed plastic aprons and specifically advised against coveralls, which were being used at OCF.

"Coveralls are less convenient and more challenging than gowns, and are potential hazards especially when taking them off," the guide said. "These should not be purchased."

Despite it being mandatory for all prison staff to be wearing face masks, many were flouting the rules.

In the programmes building, the report writer found, many employees were not covering their faces even while walking around the area.

Also of concern was the staff’s use of the bio-hazard bin, in which they were supposed to dispose of used equipment.

Many were dumping their masks and gloves with general rubbish, and - contrary to protocol - staff were handling the bio-hazard bin as they would any other refuse container.

The internal review sparked a motivational email from the prison’s operations manager.

"Can we do better? Yes we can! So, as a team can I ask you all to step up and let’s take our Covid response seriously," he said.

Mr Clark said staff worked in a challenging environment.

"Our staff do make mistakes, but we will ensure that they are learnt from so that they don’t happen again."

Prison problems
  • Lack of physical distancing.
  • Sick staff coming to work
  • No training for thermal camera
  • Delivery drivers not screened.
  • Incorrect PPE being used.




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