A nurse at a Georgia prison sounded the alarm about the number of hysterectomies performed on migrant women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a whistleblower’s complaint filed Monday to the Department of Homeland Security.
Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse, expressed concern regarding the “high numbers” of detained immigrant women held at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Ga., receiving hysterectomies, as well as other “dangerously unhealthy practices” at the prison amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the complaint filed Monday by Project South, an Atlanta-based non-profit, and the Government Accountability Project to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
Wooten, who worked full-time at the detention center until July, when she was demoted to work as needed, said she and other nurses questioned among themselves why one unnamed gynecologist outside the facility was performing so many hysterectomies on detainees referred to him for additional medical treatment.
“We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out,” Wooten said, according to the complaint. “That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy—just about everybody," Wooten is quoted as saying in the complaint, referring to the unidentified doctor, adding that he, in one incident, even accidentally removed the wrong ovary on a detained migrant woman.
“She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary; he took out the right one. She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy,” Wooten said, according to the complaint. “She still wanted children—so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids. She said she was not all the way out under anesthesia and heard him [doctor] tell the nurse that he took the wrong ovary.”
ICE said in a statement to Fox News it does not comment on matters presented to the Office of the Inspector General, which provides independent oversight and accountability within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any potential investigation and/or results. That said, in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve,” ICE spokesperson Lindsay Williams said.
The DHS Office of the Inspector General did not immediately return Fox News' request for comment. Project South said a press conference about the complaint is planned at noon in Atlanta on Tuesday.
While the 27-page complaint filed by Project South includes detailed comments from Wooten, it also quotes unidentified detainees extensively. The complaint alleges Wooten was demoted after missing work with coronavirus symptoms, which she believes was retaliation for raising questions about addressing COVID-19. Wooten said the number of detainees infected was much higher than reported because there was no active testing and not all cases were reported, according to the complaint.
Wooten is quoted as saying the call nurse sometimes fabricated seeing detainees in person when they hadn't and that she saw the nurse shred a box of detainee complaints without looking at them. She said nurses ignored detainees reporting COVID-19 symptoms. If detainees reported a fever, nurses would put them on over-the-counter cold medication for seven days without testing them for COVID-19, she claimed.
Wooten said the facility declined to use two rapid-testing COVID-19 machines that ICE purchased for $14,000 each. No medical staff had been trained on them and she saw the machines used only once.
Project South joined Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network in filing a second broader complaint to DHS. The Irwin County Detention Center is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private company that runs immigration detention facilities in Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana.
The facility in Ocilla, about 200 miles south of Atlanta, houses men and women detainees for ICE, as well as inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service and Irwin County.
As of Sunday, 42 detainees at the facility had tested positive for the virus, according to ICE. Nationwide, 5,772 detainees were positive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.