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Medical Director Resigns From State's Embattled Prison Health System After 3 Months On Job

Hartford Courant 2018-06-13 20:35:00

The prison system’s new medical director, who in a May deposition had expressed deep frustrations over the quality of medical care, has resigned after three months on the job.

Dr. Joseph Breton’s departure comes as he was overseeing the state’s transition away from UConn Health as the provider of prison medical care, to an in-house program run by the Department of Correction. Breton had worked for UConn Health but became a Department of Correction employee when he accepted the medical chief’s position in March

The change-over followed a consultant’s report on 25 flawed medical cases, including eight inmate deaths, an increase in the number of malpractice lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates, and growing concerns about the state’s exposure to possible multi-million-dollar pay outs.

The transition was to be completed in July.

Breton had expressed concerns about the DOC’s readiness to take on medical care for more than 13,400 inmates, many of home are entering the system with opioid addictions, the hepatitis C virus, and other illnesses.

Breton resigned for another job opportunity, said DOC spokeswoman Karen Martucci.

She said Wednesday that the department “will continue with the transition of health-care services and plans to refill this vacancy as soon as possible. Although complex in nature, the transition is moving along as planned. We credit the success of this massive undertaking to the collaborative efforts of both the Department of Correction and UConn Health.”

Breton had had a private practice for about 15 years before he was he hired by UConn Health to work as a prison doctor at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers in 2015. In a sworn deposition in May, he told lawyer Kenneth Krayeske, who is representing inmate Wayne World in a malpractice suit over a misdiagnosis of World’s lymphoma, that he had resigned once before, in January.

Breton said he was disillusioned and troubled by what he said were daily delays in medical care that were harming inmates, denials of testing or specialist referrals by UConn Health’s “utilization review” committee, and fundamental problems with communication between UConn Health and the Department of Correction, which was paying UConn about $100 million per year for the medical care.

Breton also said in the deposition that Wayne World dropped into his office one day, and was leaking yellowish serosanguinous fluid through the gauze bandages that covered his legs and arms onto the floor of Breton’s office — fluid that later had to be mopped up by the inmate trustee. Breton, who quickly took over World’s case, said he was shocked and “disgusted” by the treatment that World had received.

“How did that make you feel?” Krayeske asked Breton.

“I was angry, to be honest … I had never seen anything like that before … The severity of it,” Breton answered, according to a transcript of the deposition.

World had developed skin lesions and was being treated with an assortment of topical creams. Eventually, a long delayed biopsy came back positive for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. His condition had been diagnosed for more than two years as psoriasis, according to court records.

“Do you think the [prison] medical system failed him,” Krayeske asked.

“Yes,” said Breton.

It was in January, just as Breton had given his two-weeks notice, when Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple and consultant Greg Robinson, sat Breton down and asked him what he’d changed about the prison medical-care system if he could.

In March, Semple offered Breton the job as medical director, replacing Dr. Kathleen Maurer, whose nurse investigator, Tim Bombard, had discovered a serious of troubling cases, and who had brought concerns to the administration. Maurer was reassigned to run the prison system’s addiction programs.