The family of an inmate who died at the state-owned hospital on Sunday has accused the Maldives Correctional Services of negligence by failing to provide prompt care for liver and kidney failure.
Vishah Ali, who was serving a five-year jail sentence for theft, had been hospitalised at the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit for a week when he passed away on January 31. At the time, the MCS was making arrangements to send him abroad.
“Vishah had been complaining for more than 20 days before he was taken to see a doctor,” said a family member who was reluctant to give her name.
“He had called us from phones smuggled into the prison and said he was very sick. He said prisons staff do not take medical issues seriously.
“He was in a lot of pain when we saw him at the hospital. He was under their care. How could they not have noticed when things escalated to this level? What else can we say but that the government has been negligent?”
Vishah had served nearly three years of his sentence and was among the fifty inmates working on a road construction project on industrial Thilafushi Island.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, which is mandated to investigate all custodial deaths, said it has launched an investigation into Vishah’s death.
Moosa Rameez, the MCS spokesman, said Vishah had asked to see the doctor for minor symptoms. “He had a fever and a stomach ache. The prisons doctor then referred him to the IGMH where doctors detected the liver issue.”
Dismissing allegations of negligence, Rameez said any delay in consulting doctors at the hospital was a result of difficulties in obtaining appointments from IGMH.
“We receive appointments through the same process as everyone. We usually do not get the number of appointments we request,” he said.
MCS conducts a medical assessment of all inmates before they are incarcerated, he added.
Another 23-year-old died of apparent natural causes last May. He had complained of chest pains before his death.
In 2014, Ibrahim Azar died from severe injuries inflicted by his cell mates. According to the MCS, Azar had requested to be transferred from his cell more than an hour before the assault
Other high-profile custodial deaths include that of Hussain Solah, who was found dead in Malé’s lagoon in 2007, and 19-year-old Evan Naseem’s in 2003.
Evan was tortured to death by prison guards. The murder triggered riots and fuelled a pro-democracy movement that unseated Maldives’ strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom after 30 years in power.