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The Waikato Times reports that a Hamilton woman died in prison of a heart condition after her calls for help were ignored by guards. An inquest into the death of Anna Selina Kingi, 41, at the Auckland Coroner's Court yesterday heard that Ms Kingi was found dead in her cell at Auckland Regional Woman's Facility more than an hour after she activated her alarm. She was mother of seven children and grandmother of one and had been in prison for just under a month when she died.
The inquest heard that Ms Kingi pressed the emergency alarm in her cell when she became distressed but prison guards ignored the call. One guard, whose name was suppressed, said she heard the alarm on November 10, 2008, but was busy so she just asked through the intercom if Ms Kingi was alright. When there was no answer, she decided to ignore it.
Another guard told police that rather than make her cell check rounds, she fastened her digital ID to a broom handle, reached up and swiped the card over a sensor to make it look like she had done her rounds.
Cardiologist Dr Jim Stewart told the inquest Ms Kingi died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - an inherited disorder that causes thickening of the heart, making it hard for the heart to pump blood. He said normally there was a lead-in tachycardia (rapid beating) when the disorder led to a fall in blood pressure. He said defibrillation or CPR could have worked if performed soon after Ms Kingi became distressed.
This story is typical of the quality of healthcare offered to prisoners. It is not dissimilar to the case of Justin Rys who also has a heart condition and has sleep apnoea. Mr Rys has to wear an oxygen mask while he sleeps – otherwise he stops breathing during the night placing additional stress on his heart.
While Mr Rys was in Rimutaka prison on remand earlier this year, the machine which pumps the oxygen broke down. For two weeks, nursing staff ignored his pleas for help. It was only when his lawyer intervened that Mr Rys was taken to hospital and given a new oxygen pump. If it hadn’t been for his lawyer, My Rys might also have died in prison. Prison guards and nursing staff at Rimutaka clearly would not have cared.