Corrections staff launch work refusal over lack of TB screening
The Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre has been on lockdown and another work refusal has been launched.
But the province says that no work refusal is warranted.
CTV News has learned that for the last two months, new inmates have not undergone mandatory tuberculosis screening, due to a lack of serum needed for the test at the jail.
Correctional officers say they are at risk for contracting the disease because new admissions haven't been screened, nor have they been fitted for face masks to protect them from the airborne disease.
TB is contagious, especially for those that spend lots of time with an infected individual.
Inmates in cramped cells face even greater risks.
The lockdown means no visits with lawyers or family and no unnecessary movement of inmates.
“There’s a standard work refusal, based upon a failure to screen inmates for TB, which is a standard thing that they're supposed to do,” says Rain Loftus, of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.
According to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services policy, every inmate shall have tuberculosis screening upon admission.
But without the serum, the tests can't happen and the jail hasn't had any serum since December.
The ministry says patients’ health is a top priority.
It also provided this statement: “The Ministry of Labour was contacted to address a work refusal at EMDC. The Ministry of Labour indicated there were no grounds to refuse.”
It says all inmates have access to nurses, doctors, dentists and psychiatrists, and each facility has a primary care provider.
Kevin Egan, a lawyer who represents over 100 inmates, says the situation is a major problem.
“They're once again turning a blind eye to the health and safety of people at the EMDC,” he says.
“These men and women are put together cheek by jowl. And they're with their cell mates 24 hours a day and it’s really ripe for the spread of a disease like that.”
On Tuesday, staff were donning masks to try to protect themselves from potential infection.
“We have people who could have taken it home to their family. There's a lot of concern here,” Loftus says.