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Massachusetts DOC Fires COVID-19 Mitigation Ombudsman Over Previous Allegations of Document Falsification

On September 22, 2021, Seth Peters, the first person appointed to the newly created position of Ombudsman for Public Health Standards Compliance and COVID-19 Mitigation for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC), was fired after a Boston radio station asked whether he was the same Seth Peters involved in a wrongful death lawsuit settled by the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Memorial hospital for $1 million in 2012.

That lawsuit alleged that Peters, then an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), forced a patient experiencing a heart attack to walk down a flight of stairs and then recorded that the man had been carried down the steps. After the patient died, Peters told state investigators he made the erroneous report unintentionally, writing what he did in haste to turn in the paperwork. He was later fired from that job.

UMass Chan Medical School said Peters, a Connecticut Air National Guard public health officer and former health official for Rhode Island, was no longer employed by the school. He had been hired less than two weeks before the allegations surfaced, prompting Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts Director Liz Matos to say, “It is unsurprising that Mr. Peters was fired. What is surprising is that he was hired in the first place for such an important position with so little vetting or consideration.”

“The person holding this position is going to have so much authority and responsibility for the health of our incarcerated citizens,” agreed state Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), “that you’re going to want somebody who is pretty impeccable.”

After working as an EMT, Peters went on to become the chief of epidemiology for Worcester. The Office of the Ombudsman is currently helmed by Lauren M. Andersen, a nurse whose bi-weekly report dated February 2, 2022, noted that since the pandemic began in March 2020, DOC had reduced its prisoner population from 7,968 to 5,973.

Most of that reduction had occurred as sentences ended; the report noted that DOC had released just 61 prisoners still serving sentences—18 on electronic monitoring and 43 on medical parole. DOC had also reported over 2,600 COVID-19 infections among prisoners, including at least 23 whose infections were fatal. Five of DOC’s facilities reported that 75% or more of prisoners were fully vaccinated, while four reported vaccination rates below 50%. Staff vaccination rates reportedly ranged from 93% to 100% at all facilities.  

Source: Mass. DOC, WBUR

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