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Hepatitis C Epidemic

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  • Hepatitis C Epidemic

    Nurses denounce gag order on Hepatitis C cases

    By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

    Nurses & Health Employees Labor Union members on Friday denounced a persecution scheme and the imposition of a gag order by the Correctional Health authority. The union members feel they are being discriminated against for coming forward and denouncing what they believe is unfair labor practices before the House Health Committee investigating the program.

    One of those nurses is Julio Pizarro, who testified at public hearings that contrary to the Health Department side of the story, there is a Hepatitis C epidemic within the Rio Piedras State Penitentiary since 26% of that population are diagnosed with the condition.

    Because of their statements, Correctional Health allegedly ordered a halt in working hours on Monday and warned sanctions would be made against anyone who dared to make the accusations.

    Pizarro, who is a graduate nurse, has been denied the right to occupy a vacant position and is still being paid at the salary of a practitioner which, in his opinion, is discriminatory -- all because he denounced irregularities within the system.

    Union Executive Director Radames Quinones added that employees were forced to sign a letter to Gov. Sila Calderon requesting her to order a halt in the legislative investigation.

    The union leaders then issued a letter to Calderon on Friday requesting her to initiate an investigation of this “scheme” of persecution, to which they allegedly are being subjected to.

    A similar request was issued to House Health Committee Chairman Rafael Garcia.

    Quinones Aponte urged island residents to join them in their cause since statistics show that at least one member of each family has had a run-in with the law and might have been or is a member of the prison population.

    “In Puerto Rico, every family has at least one member behind bars and, although they may not be given the importance they deserve, it is vital to remember that in Puerto Rico a prisoner does not lose his or her right to public health just because he or she is in a cell,” Quinones said.

    Quinones added that the lifelong civil class-action lawsuit against the government -- by former inmate Morales Feliciano for the inhumane prison conditions to which he was being subjected – once and for all, should be closed.

    He has this opinion because after 24 years in court, the case has only served to help make others wealthy, such as the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

    “It’s time the case be dismissed, but obviously there are interests more powerful than the inmates themselves behind it,” Quinones said.

    Quinones identified one of those powers as U.S. District Court Judge Juan Perez Gimenez and Correctional Health Director Aida Guzman.

    Perez Gimenez is the judge assigned to the case.

    He added there are also many good employees willing to work in favor of the inmates, but who are discriminated against for doing so, such as is the case with the nurses.