Former DOC Administration knew about Hepatitis C health crisis for two years

Department of Corrections (PNC file photo)

Guam – For two years! That’s how long Department of Corrections administrators have known about the $8 million potentially life threatening health crisis kept under wraps at DepCor’s Mangilao prison compound. But, according to former DOC Director Tony Lamorena, the sky isn’t falling quite so fast as Doctor Larry Lizama would make this contagious liver epidemic seem.

“I was equally surprised after Larry Lizama’s comments as well. You know when I first came on board to DOC two years ago that was brought up but it was not what Doctor Lizama had said the other day that the sky is falling. Lamorena continued, of course there are going to be individuals who are going to be infected in a controlled situation there are different ways of contracting Hep C and so you know Dr.. Lizama made us aware of the condition that there were approximately 100 people there, but again like I said treatment isn’t given to everyone. doctor Lizama’s quote 8 million is treatment for all 100 if they were to be treated tomorrow.”

Lamorena did not dismiss the possibility of Hepatitis C being contracted through exposure within the prison’s walls, telling K57 talkshow host Patti Arroyo, “there are inmates that came in that had Hep C of course in any controlled population even in your household when one person catches the flu every person catches it.”

According to Lamorena, when the issue of Hepititis C infected inmates and exposure of the prison’s population was first made known, DOC met with Public health, GMH and Governor Calvo’s office to talk about the possibility of treatment through an off-island pharmaceutical company conducting case study trials of controlled treatment on Hep C stricken inmates.

“Doctor Lizama was in contact at that time, Doctor Wu was the consultant for the Attorney Generals Office when the governor’s office was working on lifting the consent decree. He was the consultant that would dictate what the national standards for health care was national, so we followed that consultants recommendation because Dr. Lizama was in constant contact with Dr. Wu. In regards to treating individuals with Hepatitis C, my understanding with Doctor Lizama was at the time, was that treatment was not to be given until a certain stage. I think it was stage three or four. So you know it was Doctor Lizama that was supposed to keep us updated on when certain individuals were to be treated. Its not like you treat everybody, you treat as need be, Lamorena continued stating , I know every time we had division meeting the manager from the clinic is there representing GMH would give us updates. The last report that was that we are getting to that point where individuals needed to be treated for Hepatitis C.”

Last August, former Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio during a tour of DOC stated, “we need to make sure that the inmates and detainees here are safe and they’re getting civil rights protections like they all should.”

With this in mind why wasn’t it included in the transition reports provided to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero?

“For me personally it was information during the tour, we will also work very closely with samantha our director there to orovide her with the resources that she needs to not only from a health stand point and human stand point to make sure the inamtes are treated because it can get into complications if we find it early in the process of the disease thats eve n much healthier for the inmates,” stated Governor Lou Leon Guerrero.

While news of the $8-million health crisis at DOC was sprung on the new governor she is committed to getting the inmates health care squared away.

“You know hep c can be treated and I thinkits an 8 week program that has to happen with medication I know that its a very effective, so yes absolutely, we need to treat those inmates there, we need to be protect it from being spread. I am pretty sure that public health is also on it to make sure that it doesn’t spread into the community,” stated the governor.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.