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New Hampshire Jail Doctor Suspended Pending Misconduct Hearing

In April 2016, New Hampshire’s Board of Medicine suspended the license of a doctor who treated prisoners at the Valley Street Jail in Hillsborough County. The suspension followed allegations of professional misconduct.

Dr. Matthew J. Masewic worked part time at the Valley Street Jail. He also served as director of medical services at the state psychiatric hospital. The suspension did not affect Masewic’s ability to practice outside correctional facilities, however the Board of Medicine found he posed a danger if he continued to practice medicine at the jail.

The Board’s report on the suspension, which was described as an emergency stop-gap measure, detailed four cases as part of its investigation into inadequate nurse supervision and patient mistreatment by Dr. Masewic from 2011 to 2015.

A November 2011 case involved an incident where Masewic refused a prisoner access to medication prescribed by a hospital physician after the prisoner returned from an emergency room visit for chest pains.

In another case from the summer of 2012, Dr. Masewic ascribed a prisoner’s complaints of acute abdominal pain and bowel obstruction to an assault by other prisoners, though when the prisoner was finally taken to a hospital, doctors found pelvic and spinal abscesses that resulted in partial paralysis.

In December 2014, a prisoner who entered the jail while 30 weeks pregnant delivered a stillborn baby, after which no antibiotics were prescribed – despite her complaining for two days about abdominal pain from an infected cyst.

Another prisoner complained of migraines, blurred vision and nausea throughout the spring and summer of 2015, but Dr. Masewic refused to prescribe any medication and in fact ordered that even Tylenol and Motrin be withheld.

The Board suspended the doctor from practicing medicine in a correctional facility for up to 120 days, until a hearing could be conducted into his alleged misconduct. See: In the Matter of Matthew J. Masewic, MD, State of New Hampshire Medical Board, Docket No. 16-04.

Hillsborough County, like most counties in New Hampshire, employs jail doctors as independent contractors, though counties also directly employ a staff of jail nurses.
County officials said Dr. Masewic was scheduled to leave his position at the jail on June 30, 2016, so they invited his replacement – who had already been selected – to step in early. That replacement was Dr. Christopher Braga. Braga also served as the physician for jails in Carroll, Belkap and Strafford counties, according to Hillsborough County Corrections Superintendent David Dionne. Despite the suspension, Dionne was reluctant to criticize Dr. Masewic.

“I think he’s done the job a doctor would do,” he said.

Although Masewic’s 2014 contract for employment at the jail specified no more than “current standards of medical practice,” the documents for the bid ultimately awarded to Braga spelled out those standards in greater detail. They also require him to refer patients to outside medical specialists when necessary.

Additionally, while Dr. Masewic answered only to the jail’s superintendent under a confidentially clause related to all jail activities, Braga’s contract makes him responsible solely for his patients’ healthcare with no mention of confidentiality beyond that owed a patient by a doctor.

According to Hillsborough County Commissioner Toni Pappas, Dr. Braga will be paid a higher rate than the $6,000 Masewic received monthly, along with an additional $65 an hour for services rendered at the jail. He will be required to work at least 12 hours per week, while Dr. Masewic typically worked eight hours with no contractually-specified minimum.

Further, Braga must review and recommend policy changes, conduct at least two in-house education programs a year and hold a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe narcotics – none of which applied to Masewic during his tenure at the jail.

Hopefully, these changes and more detailed contractual requirements will result in improved healthcare at the Valley Street Jail, where prisoners have no other options for their medical needs other than seeking treatment from jail staff.