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Washington Office of Corrections Ombuds Investigation of Delayed Cancer Diagnosis and Management 2021

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The Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) previously conducted two investigations
highlighting delayed cancer management1 at the Monroe Correctional Complex, revealing delays
of three to five months from the time the patients reported their symptoms until the time of
diagnosis. Since those reports were released, OCO has continued to receive complaints regarding
cases where delays in cancer diagnosis reportedly occurred. The complaints involve different
facilities across the state, and some have resulted in death.
Identifying and treating cancer at an early stage is important because it greatly increases the
chances for successful treatment. The purpose of this investigation is to review the series of
alleged delayed cancer diagnoses that have come to OCO’s attention; to identify key issues that
affected quality of care; to analyze for commonalities; and to identify opportunities for


Per RCW 43.06C.005, OCO was created to assist in strengthening procedures and practices
that lessen the possibility of actions occurring within DOC that may adversely impact the
health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals, and that will
effectively reduce the exposure of DOC to litigation.


Per RCW 43.06C.040, OCO has the authority to receive, investigate, and resolve
complaints related to incarcerated individuals’ health, safety, welfare, and rights.


OCO MCC Deaths Report 1 and Report 2

Notice of this investigation was provided to DOC in October 2020.

In the course of the

investigation, OCO reviewed the following documents:

Medical charts


DOC Policies 600.000 Health Services Management


610.010 Offender Consent for Health Care


610.040 Health Screenings and Assessments


610.650 Outpatient Services


890.620 Emergency Medical Treatment


Washington DOC Health Plan (a.k.a. Offender Health Plan)

In addition, the OCO interviewed several of the patients involved in these cases. Unfortunately,
not all could be interviewed because OCO encountered obstacles in scheduling patient interviews
at one of the facilities. DOC staff was not interviewed due to concurrent COVID19 outbreaks at
the involved facilities; in addition, in some cases the involved medical staff had already left DOC

Patient A
Patient A is a White male who was 37 years old when he sought treatment at a DOC prison clinic
in May 2019 for a painful skin lesion on his back that was cracking and bleeding. His provider
diagnosed a benign skin lesion and explained that it could not be removed based on DOC’s
Offender Health Plan.
Over the following months, Patient A sent three medical Kites and filed a grievance, requesting
treatment for the growing skin lesion; his provider conferred with the Facility Medical Director
and in June 2019 responded, “It is not authorized by DOC. [Facility Medical Director] is sticking


to that.” Finally, in September 2019 he underwent excision of the “benign” lesion; a pathology
report identified malignant melanoma.
After the malignancy was identified, a period of two months passed before he was sent for a
surgical evaluation in November 2019. At that visit, the surgeon recommended “urgent” full body
imaging, lymphatic mapping, and re-excision of the melanoma site along with sentinel lymph node
biopsy to check for metastasis; these same recommendations were reiterated by the medical
oncologist at a separate visit. However, the imaging studies were not scheduled, and Patient A
sent medical Kites inquiring about when they would be performed. In January 2020, Patient A
finally received the “urgent” full body imaging, but the lymphatic mapping did not occur until
March 2020 after additional prompting from Patient A via medical Kites.
The melanoma diagnosed in September 2019 did not undergo re-excision and lymph node biopsy
until April 2020; unfortunately, this found that the cancer had spread to a lymph node in his left
axilla. He again had to send medical Kites expressing concern about an oncology follow-up for
treatment; in mid-May 2020, one response to a Kite was that the provider was waiting for a referral
to oncology by the surgeon, and that it had “only been 2 days” (it had actually been three weeks
since his lymph node biopsy results were known). He was not sent to the oncologist until late May
Chemotherapy began in June 2020. Despite the treatment, the cancer spread quickly, and he died
one month later.

Patient B
Patient B is a 56-year-old Black male with a history of intermittent blood in the urine since at least
2017. On interview, he stated that he had asked his providers for cancer screening in 2017, because
of a DOC document he received on entry that included a “Special Addendum for Men” indicating
that African-American men should be checked for prostate cancer every year if they are over 40
years of age.2 However, his provider and the Facility Medical Director declined to provide the
testing he requested.

State of Washington Department of Corrections Health Information and Patient Education Self-Help Guide, P17961, v. 11/2008, page 24.


In August 2018, Patient B declared a medical emergency for a three-day history of blood in his
urine; he was treated with a two-week course of antibiotics and was to have a follow-up urinalysis
in 30 days. He continued to have painful urination with associated urinary frequency; he sent his
provider a medical kite on 8/24/2018, complaining of severe pain in abdomen and frequent
urination. He received a response six days later, instructing him to sign up for urgent care. A
month later, he filed a grievance complaining of ongoing symptoms, stating that “they never
followed up or examined me for anything else.” That same month (September), DOC Health
Services updated its protocol regarding prostate cancer to indicate that screening should be
discussed with high-risk populations such as African Americans age 45 and older; however, there
is no indication that this discussion took place with Patient B.
After another month of continued symptoms, Patient B was evaluated by his provider in October
2018. He reported continued and constant lower abdominal pain. Urinalysis was negative; his
provider did not prescribe any treatment or further evaluation for the left lower quadrant pain. He
was told to kite as needed. Another urinalysis was performed in early December 2018 due to
complaints of painful and frequent urination; the test was again normal.
Patient B was not seen until late February 2019, when he sought care for the evaluation of a neck
mass which he discovered 1 ½ weeks earlier; an ultrasound was ordered. Five days later, he
declared a medical emergency for blood in his urine, left flank pain, and difficulty walking /
standing; he was treated for muscle pain. Three days later, he declared another medical emergency
due to a three-day history of blood in his urine and left flank pain; moderate blood was noted on
urine dipstick, and he was admitted to the IPU for treatment of possible kidney stone.
In March 2019, a CT of neck revealed a mass concerning for neoplasm. At an appointment to
discuss the CT results, the provider noted urinary frequency, recurrent hematuria, a 13-pound
weight loss in 7 months, and history of night sweats; Patient B stated that this information was
previously reported to his former assigned primary provider. A biopsy of the neck mass on
3/13/2019 revealed metastatic Stage IV prostate cancer. A subsequent PET scan demonstrated
that the cancer had spread to the abdomen, pelvis, and clavicles. At the time of this writing time,
he has completed two rounds of chemotherapy, but has been told he will likely die within 9 to 18


Patient C
Patient C is a 35-year-old White male who entered DOC’s system in June 2019. At an intake
history and physical, he reported difficulty swallowing for eight months; nevertheless, the nurse
practitioner deemed him “healthy” and did not indicate any need for additional evaluation. In
August 2019, he presented to the clinic complaining of severe acid reflux, abdominal pain, and
difficulty swallowing; he described having to take small bites of food and making a slurry with his
saliva to swallow it. He was given medication and told to follow-up in two weeks, but an
appointment was not made for him. In addition, a referral was made to gastroenterology to occur
“within one month” but that ultimately did not get scheduled until December. Lab studies were
performed revealing a hemoglobin of 9.43; this significant anemia was acknowledged by the
provider, but no additional action was taken.
In September 2019 Patient C was transferred to a minimum-security facility. He again reported
pain with swallowing and reflux symptoms. An upper endoscopy was ordered. Unfortunately, he
was transferred to a county jail several days later for a court order and he did not return to the
minimum-security facility until November 2019. He again reported symptoms at that intake
screening, and a consultation for upper endoscopy was placed.
By December, Patient C still had not been seen for the upper endoscopy. At a provider visit, he
reported pain and difficulty with swallowing solids and liquids, as well as nausea; he additionally
complained that he needed dental work, and unfortunately the provider focused on the dental
complaint. The plan was to contact the Chief of Dentistry to transfer him to a facility that could
provide dental care; there was no intervention regarding the other symptoms. He returned a week
later with worsening symptoms; he was vomiting, unable to eat, had increased abdominal pain,
and difficulty swallowing. At this point, the provider reviewed his lab studies and noticed his
significant anemia in August; he was sent to the ER, where he was found to have a hemoglobin of
7.8 and multiple abdominal masses. He was transferred to another facility and finally underwent
his gastroenterology procedures, which identified a highly aggressive Stage IV gastroesophageal

He underwent chemotherapy before being released through DOC’s

Extraordinary Medical Placement Policy DOC 350.270.


Normal hemoglobin in adult males is generally >14.


Patient D
Patient D is a 55-year-old Native American 4 male on long-term anticoagulation (blood thinners)
for a chronic medical condition. Routine lab studies performed by a DOC provider in January
2018 revealed a low hemoglobin of 12.85, but there was no further workup for this abnormal
Shortly afterward, Patient D was transferred to another facility; although he was seen frequently
to monitor his anticoagulation therapy, his anemia was not acknowledged, and no workup
occurred. In November 2018, additional laboratory studies were performed, and hemoglobin was
markedly low at 6.8; other markers consistent with anemia were additionally noted. The test
results were signed by the provider indicating acknowledgement, but no action was taken on the
significantly abnormal findings.
Patient D continued to be seen on a regular basis for his anticoagulation therapy, with some dosage
adjustments. Finally, in June 2019 he presented to the clinic complaining of shortness of breath,
fatigue, and blood in his stools; he was sent to the emergency room, where his hemoglobin was
found to be 3.2 and his blood over-anticoagulated.

Multiple transfusions were required.

Additional diagnostic studies revealed an invasive adenocarcinoma of the colon which was felt to
be the source of his blood loss; enlarged lymph nodes in the area were also noted. He underwent
surgical resection of the colon mass, which was subsequently identified as a high-grade, aggressive
type of carcinoma with spread to area lymph nodes.
Patient D was seen by the oncologist less than two weeks after release from the hospital.
Chemotherapy began at the end of July; radiation therapy followed in October. He was released
in February 2020 to continue cancer care at a community hospital; it appears that an appointment
was made for him post-release.

Patient E
Patient E is a 34-year-old Black male with a prior history of small bowel obstruction in 2008 who
presented to a provider in June 2020 for the complaint of abdominal pain over the last few weeks,


Listed as White per DOC but noted to be Native American in medical chart.
See footnote 3.


along with fever, chills, and nausea/vomiting. He was treated for constipation. Subsequent records
indicate persistent abdominal pain and ongoing bloating / nausea, and on interview he additionally
reported an inability to eat, resulting in a dramatic weight loss of 40 pounds in six weeks. He sent
several medical Kites reporting pain, nausea, and no relief with medications, and declared
numerous medical emergencies for the worsening pain. His provider responded by encouraging
him to take medications for constipation and acid reflux. By the end of July 2020, the pain had
spread to a new location in the abdomen and included additional new symptoms of pain with
inspiration and with urination.
In early August 2020, Patient E sent another medical Kite asking his provider to schedule a
gastroenterology consultation due to ongoing symptoms. At that time, the pain had become so
severe that he could not sleep. The on-call provider recommended that Patient E be brought to the
infirmary for an evaluation the following day, but a shift lieutenant would not bring Patient E to
the clinic because he was not on the call-out list. Although there is only one documentation of this
in the medical chart, Patient E stated that this refusal by IMU staff occurred on several occasions.
Over the next two days, the pain became worse; Patient E was unable to eat and was having
abnormal bowel movements. He told the nursing staff “I feel like I’m going to die;” he requested
admission to the IPU or the hospital, but the provider added him to the sick call schedule for the
following day. A DOC nurse told Patient E that he needed to go to the hospital, but the provider
refused this recommendation.

On 8/12/2020, x-rays demonstrated a possible developing

obstruction, and he was sent to the ER. There, a CT scan found a large mass occluding the colon
and creating a high-grade obstruction. He was admitted to the hospital and underwent abdominal
surgery, which confirmed the presence of a large malignant-appearing mass in the colon nearly
occluding the lumen; biopsies confirmed poorly differentiated invasive adenocarcinoma. He
underwent surgery to remove the mass and is awaiting a follow-up with his surgical oncologist to
determine when additional surgery can be performed.

Patient F
Patient F is a 55-year-old White male who reports a history of hematuria (blood in urine) since
November 2017. The condition was first identified at the intake facility, and he was told that he
would be further evaluated for the diagnosis when he arrived at his parent facility. However, once

he arrived there, he did not receive any treatment or evaluations other than an x-ray to look for
kidney stones. He states that he only noticed blood in his urine once a week, lasting 2-3 days at a
time, so he “didn’t push the issue” and did not pursue treatment.
Patient F was then transferred to another facility. In January 2020 his hematuria worsened, and he
describes his urine as being “solid red” on a daily basis. At that point, he sought treatment from a
provider, reporting a history of hematuria which began five months earlier, had become
progressively worse, and was now constant. At that visit, a routine urology consultation was
requested “within 1 month.” He was to follow-up within three weeks, but there is no record
reflecting this follow-up.
The routine urology consultation did not take place, and Patient F was not seen until two months
later, when he presented to a provider in March 2020 complaining of thick blood in his urine with
associated urinary urgency. The provider decided to treat him for a urinary tract infection; the
urology consultation had been approved, but the appointment was still pending at that time. He
states that he was treated for five urinary tract infections, with no resolution of his symptoms. He
reports filing “grievance after grievance” in order to receive medical care.
Patient F was finally seen by the urologist in May 2020, five months after the original consultation
request. The consultant recommended a workup to ensure that there was no malignancy; several
studies including CT urogram6 were ordered. Unfortunately, the CT urogram was not performed
until July 2020; this revealed a large soft tissue mass in the right renal pelvis consistent with a
primary urothelial malignancy.
Despite these CT urogram results, there is no indication of any specialty referrals after that
diagnostic test. Patient F declared a medical emergency for abdominal pain and inability to urinate
two days after the CT urogram; bladder catheterization yielded very bloody urine with clots, and
antibiotics were prescribed. There was no further treatment until he declared another medical
emergency in early August 2020, this time for fever and chills; he was sent to the ER, where he
was admitted. CT now revealed an enlarging mass, with some suspicious lymph nodes. He finally
underwent cystoscopy on 8/26/2020, and the definitive diagnosis of urothelial carcinoma was


A CT urogram is an imaging exam used to evaluate the urinary tract.


Patient F has since completed chemotherapy and will be seeing the oncologist to discuss next steps;
he anticipates needing an extensive surgical procedure.

Patient G
Patient G is a 58-year-old White male who initially presented to his medical provider in October
2018 complaining of a lesion on his bottom lip. A viral infection was suspected, and he was tested.
A month later, he saw a dental assistant and informed them of a recurring lesion on his lower lip;
the dental assistant recommended that Patient G request an exam with the dentist via Kite.
In December 2018, Patient G returned to his medical provider and gave a history of a “cold sore”
on his lip for the past twelve months; he was treated with antiviral medication. A dentist’s
evaluation the following day reflected the plan for lip biopsy at the next visit; however, no
appointment was scheduled for this procedure.
Because the lesion would not heal, Patient G contacted his medical provider via Kite. The antiviral
medication was renewed four times, with each treatment course ranging from 14 days to 180 days;
each time, the medications were renewed without a medical evaluation. He was not physically
examined until June 2019, when he returned to the dentist who noted the lip lesions and submitted
an internal consult request to the medical provider; however, no appointment was made by the
scheduler, and after 60 days that consult request was automatically deleted from the scheduling
Patient G returned to his medical provider in August 2019. The medical provider now described
the lip lesion as “worrisome,” and he was scheduled for a biopsy. The biopsy was not performed
until October 2019, a year after his initial presentation; at that visit, the surgeon described the
lesion as involving 70% of his lower lip. The biopsy revealed invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
He underwent wedge resection of the lip lesion in November 2019.

Patient H
Patient H is a 68-year-old White male who has been in DOC since 1974. On interview, he stated
that he began noticing blood in his stool sometime in 2019; he was sent to a local hospital for an

evaluation, but eventually he says he was told to stop straining when having bowel movements.
He then transferred to another facility in May 2019 and had some initial basic laboratory studies
performed; part of that initial battery of tests was testing for the presence of blood in his stool. In
June 2019, two of the three tests were indicative of a GI bleed, and a consultation with
gastroenterology was submitted.
Two months passed without the gastroenterology consultation taking place; the records indicate
multiple subsequent follow-up appointments for other issues, with no further mention of GI bleed.
Patient H was not seen by the gastroenterologist until August 2019, at which time a colonoscopy
was recommended. Unfortunately, that diagnostic study was not performed until more than six
weeks later, at which time it revealed a large mass in the colon; the biopsy in September 2019
confirmed the presence of colon cancer. He initially declined treatment and wanted only comfort
measures / palliative care, then changed his mind after transferring to another facility and coming
under the care of a new provider, who explained his tissue diagnosis and helped him understand
that it was a curable condition. He then underwent resection of the cancerous lesion; one lymph
node was positive for metastasis, so he was subsequently treated with chemotherapy. At the time
of this writing, he was about to begin his last round of chemotherapy.

Patient I
Patient I is a 37-year-old White male who declared a medical emergency for abdominal pain in
January 2020. He was treated for constipation. There is no further treatment after that initial
instance; from April 9 through April 24th he was in COVID-19 isolation. On May 18, 2020, he
declared another medical emergency for abdominal pain and a “lump” in his right upper quadrant;
the record indicates that he had been having pain in the region for the last three months – i.e. since
February 2020 – and was told that he would be assessed by a provider once he was released from
isolation, but that assessment did not happen. He was then scheduled to be seen in sick call on
5/20/2020 but was moved to another facility on that date.
At the new facility, Patient I was evaluated by a provider for the same complaints; x-rays
reportedly showed air fluid levels and increased stool, and he was again treated for constipation.
However, the formal x-ray report from the radiologist did not find constipation; instead, the report
described a large soft tissue mass over the right upper quadrant of the abdomen and extending over

the right lower chest which was suspicious for malignancy, and recommended CT. Another
provider submitted an urgent request for this CT scan. Four days later, he declared a medical
emergency for abdominal pain rated 9/10; he was sent to the ER, where CT confirmed several
large liver masses, with the largest invading the diaphragm and reaching into the right lower lobe
of the lung. He is currently under the care of an oncologist.

Patient J
Patient J is a 53-year-old Asian/Pacific Islander male who arrived at a DOC facility on 10/15/2019.
At his intake physical, he reported that he had fallen from his top bunk a few days earlier, landing
on his outstretched right arm. X-rays showed a lesion in one of the bones of the distal forearm.
The following week, the DOC orthopedic consultant reviewed the x-rays and noted an expansile
lytic lesion in the right wrist, consistent with a locally aggressive tumor; the recommendation was
for him to see an orthopedic surgeon due to the risk of pathologic fracture.
A consult to an outside orthopedic specialist was submitted on 10/28/2019 but did not take place
until 12/31/2019. An MRI of the wrist was ordered on 11/1/2019 but did not occur until
At the 12/31/2019 orthopedic appointment, the provider recommended a STAT referral to the
university’s Hand Center; a handwritten note that accompanied Patient J when he returned to the
facility reiterated this referral recommendation but did not include the STAT designation. By the
time Patient J transferred to his parent facility in February 2020, he still had not received this
referral; the evaluation finally took place in March 2020, and he underwent surgery in April 2020.
Biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of giant cell tumor.7 He is currently under the care of an
orthopedic oncologist.

Patient K
Patient K is a 66-year-old White male with a history of chronic right upper quadrant pain since at
least 2012. In May 2019, he underwent abdominal MRI which revealed a small focal area in the
7 Giant cell tumors of the bone are non-cancerous, but they are highly aggressive, have the potential to metastasize
(spread), and can result in considerable morbidity due to destruction of surrounding bone. In light of this pathology
and the delay in confirmatory diagnosis, the case was included in this investigation.













cholangiopancreatography8 (MRCP) later that same month revealed other findings including a
lesion in the liver which the radiologist stated was probably not cancer.9
A CT on 11/23/2019 revealed a 2.2cm nodule felt to probably be hepatocellular carcinoma, and a
dedicated liver MRI was recommended; the results of this scan were not reviewed by the nurse
practitioner until 12/9/2019. Per DOC, an appointment was scheduled for 12/15/2019 with the
nurse practitioner, but this appointment was cancelled for unknown reasons.10 On 12/19/2019 –
almost a month after the CT was performed – Patient K was reviewing his medical records and
discovered the presence of cancer in his liver.
MRI was performed in December 2019, and the report specifically noted an absence of suspicious
liver lesions. However, repeat MRI in April 2020 demonstrated a markedly enlarging mass which
was consistent with hepatocellular carcinoma. He is currently under the care of an oncologist.



Time to diagnosis

5-year relative survival rate11
at localized stage






Prostate cancer








Colon cancer




Colon cancer




Urinary tract malignancy



Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, or MRCP, is a special MRI focused on the biliary and pancreatic
9 The American College of Radiology created the LI-RADS system to standardize the reporting of CT and MR
imaging for hepatocellular carcinoma. Patient K’s liver lesion at the time of the MRCP was assigned LI-RADS 2 by
the radiologist, equivalent to “probably not cancer.”
10 Patient K also had a nursing appointment on 12/10/2019 to follow-up on a complaint of ear pain – not to review
the CT results – but he declined this appointment and it was not rescheduled.
11 A relative survival rate compares people with the same type and stage of cancer to people in the overall
population; in this case, since the 5-year relative survival rate for melanoma is 99%, people with localized
melanoma are 99% as likely as people who don’t have cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.



Squamous cell
carcinoma (lip)




Colon cancer




Liver cancer




Giant cell tumor (bone)


(See footnote 11)


Liver cancer



Data regarding 5-year relative survival rate was obtained from the American Cancer Society, except for squamous cell carcinoma of the lip
(Hollestein LM, de Vries E, Nijsten T. Eur J Cancer. 2012 Sep;48(13):2046-53).

The average time to diagnosis for these eleven cases was approximately 6.5 months, with a range
of two to seventeen months between the time of initial presentation until the diagnosis was finally

In six of the eleven cases, the delay was associated with the clinician reaching an incorrect
diagnostic conclusion;


In five of the eleven cases, there was delayed scheduling of consultations with external
specialists, contributing to the delay in diagnosis and/or the initiation of treatment;


In four of the eleven cases, delayed scheduling of diagnostic studies contributed to the
delay in diagnosis and/or initiation of treatment;


Three cases demonstrated a delayed evaluation by a DOC provider; in one case, the delay
was caused by refusal of custody staff to bring a patient to the clinic;


In two cases, abnormal lab results were overlooked or not recognized;


In one case, delay occurred because of a negative MRI interpretation by an outside
radiologist, after a previously positive CT scan.

Cancer treatment varies considerably depending on the type of cancer and the stage at diagnosis.
While it may be acceptable to wait a few weeks before initiating cancer treatment in some cases,
for more aggressive cancers the treatment must start very soon. Increasing time to treatment is


generally associated with higher all-cause mortality,12

higher psychological distress, 13 and

increased healthcare costs and utilization.14 When identified early, the cancer is more likely to
respond to effective treatment, resulting in a greater probability of surviving, lower morbidity, and
lower costs for treatment. Therefore, early diagnosis is important since it improves outcomes.
The World Health Organization15 and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence16 have
identified a target of no more than one month from presentation to diagnosis for cancer cases.
The target to start treatment is also set to within one month of diagnosis. Overall, the time from
symptom onset to the start of treatment should be less than 90 days to reduce delays in care, avoid
loss to follow-up, and optimize the effectiveness of treatment.
Considering these best practice targets for cancer diagnosis, the cases highlight the following
opportunities for improvement:

Identifying system deficiencies and gaps in resources that are preventing the diagnosis of
cancer in its earliest possible stage;


Requiring better oversight by the Chief Medical Officer and other responsible physician(s)
to monitor the care provided, assist with challenging or confusing medical cases, and
ensure that abnormal diagnostic studies are not missed, given this system that relies heavily
on physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide initial care;


Shifting to a medical home model of practice, to achieve coordinated, longitudinal care
that can ensure patients with critical health needs do not get forgotten even when
transferring between DOC facilities or to/from county jails;


Elevating the scheduling system to one more reliable than the confusing and antiquated
color-coded spreadsheets currently in place, until an Electronic Health Record can be
implemented (a process which can unfortunately take years);

Cone EB, Marchese M, Paciotti M, et al. Assessment of Time-to-Treatment Initiation and Survival in a Cohort of
Patients with Common Cancers. Jama Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2030072
13 Miles A, McClements PL, Steele RJC, Redeker C, Sevdalis N, Wardle J. Perceived diagnostic delay and cancerrelated distress: a cross-sectional study of patients with colorectal cancer. Psycho-Oncology, Vol 26, Issue 1,
January 2017, pages 29-36.
14 Delisle M, Helewa R, Ward M, Hochman DJ, Park J, McKay A. The Association Between Wait Times for
Colorectal Cancer Treatment and Health Care Costs: A Population-Based Analysis. Diseases of the Colon &
Rectum: February 2020 – Volume 63 – Issue 2 – p 160-171.
15 World Health Organization. Guide to cancer early diagnosis. 2017; rev Jun 2018.
16 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. NICE guideline NG12. June 2015; updated January 2021.



Ensuring that delivery of health care in the correctional setting is a joint effort between
custody and health services, and that custody staff support the implementation of clinical
decisions17 so as not to hinder – and potentially jeopardize – patient care.

OCO’s recommendation is that DOC develop an action plan to address these needs, as well as
others they may identify through its own internal investigations. OCO welcomes the opportunity
to assist and collaborate with DOC in developing solutions to the diagnostic delays identified by
this report.

OCO recognizes that providing health care services in the correctional setting presents numerous
challenges, including the high level of need, increased demand due to the aging population,
shortages in qualified health care staff, difficulties in recruiting and retaining health care
professionals, and budgetary constraints. Nevertheless, DOC has a duty to provide timely access
to necessary medical care, and to meet accepted care delivery standards. These cases demonstrate
the need to improve several care delivery processes within DOC, to ensure the best possible
outcomes for patients with a cancer diagnosis.
OCO appreciates the opportunity to work collaboratively with DOC to identify solutions and
strategies to promote positive change.

National Commission on Correctional Health Care. NCCHC Essential Standard P-A-03. Medical autonomy.
Standards for Health Services in Prisons, 2018.