Immigrants being held at an ICE detention center in Georgia are suffering from “jarring medical neglect,” with women undergoing a shockingly high rate of hysterectomies, according to a nurse who works there.
Several advocacy groups filed a 27-page whistleblower complaint on Monday on behalf of the nurse, Dawn Wooten, who accuses the center of “negligence, including poor safety precautions surrounding Covid-19 and generally hazardous and unsanitary conditions,” reports The Guardian.
Wooten worked full-time as a licensed practical nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center until July, when she was demoted to work only as needed.
The center, operated by the private prison company LaSalle South Corrections, houses people arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Wooten’s most startling accusation involves women who were taken off-site to an unnamed gynecologist she calls “the uterus collector.”
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said. “He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady.”
On Twitter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if Wooten’s accusations are true, they’re “a staggering abuse of human rights” and called for an investigation.
A hysterectomy is the complete or partial removal of a woman’s uterus; it leaves the patient unable to bear children. It may also involve removal of the ovaries and other related structures.
Wooten doubts that many of the Spanish-speaking women knowingly consented to the operations.
“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them,” she’s quoted saying.
“In interviews with Project South, a Georgia nonprofit, multiple women said that hysterectomies were stunningly frequent among immigrants detained at the facility,” reports Vice.
“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp,” one woman told Vice, adding that she’d met five women who’d had hysterectomies after being detained between October and December 2019.
“It was like they’re experimenting with their bodies,” the woman said.
Wooten says other health issues at the Irwin center may be less shocking, but more deadly.
The facility reported having 41 cases of Covid-19 last month, but Wooten said the rate of infections among detainees, both men and women, is “much higher than reported because there was no active testing and not all cases were reported,” says the Associated Press.
It’s virtually impossible to have social distancing in such a facility, and employees are expected to work even if they have Covid-19 symptoms and are awaiting their test results, Wooten said.
Inmates and employees alike received just one mask apiece and were expected to use it over and over, she said.