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Wiggins v. Wexford Health Resources Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 27, 2019

MICHAEL WIGGINS Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Michael Wiggins (“Plaintiff”), who is incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, brings this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Wexford Health Sources, Inc.[1] (“Wexford”), Holly Pierce, RNP (“Pierce”) and Jane/John Doe.[2] ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have refused to provide him necessary pain medications and have thereby violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. A hearing is not necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s request for discovery will be denied, and Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment, will be construed as a motion for summary judgment and granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In a Complaint filed on May 7, 2018, Plaintiff states that he suffers from several medical conditions, including sarcoidosis, depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma, and back pain. ECF No. 1 at 3.[3] He asserts that since November 2017, Defendant Pierce, whom he asserts is employed by Defendant Wexford and is assigned to provide medical care for Plaintiff at NBCI, has failed to provide him with prescribed pain medication, causing him to experience “tremendous pain and massive weight loss.” Id. at 2–3. Plaintiff states that according to Pierce, the discontinuation of narcotic pain medication that he was previously given stems from a policy instituted by Wexford. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff claims that on April 3, 2018, he was transferred to Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland to see a Dr. Abdi for treatment for his sarcoidosis. Id. Due to a scheduling error, Plaintiff was unable to see Dr. Abdi until April 5, 2018. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that after performing a procedure, Dr. Abdi prescribed the medications magnesium oxide, budesonide, and Imodium. Id.

         Plaintiff states that on April 6, 2018, he was taken to Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”) for a 24-hour mandatory observation. Id. After the medical staff took his vitals, however, he was returned to his cell at NBCI without the newly prescribed medications from Dr. Abdi or any pain medications. Id. Plaintiff claims that he waited two weeks for a follow up and was seen on April 17, 2018, after he filed sick call slips. Id. He alleges that the medical provider during that visit assured him that Pierce would be asked to order his pain medication. Id.

         On April 22, 2018, having not received pain medication, Plaintiff states that he spoke to “RN Chrissy, ” who allegedly informed him that Pierce “declined to fill the order.” Id. at 4–5. As of April 23, 2018, Plaintiff claimed that he still had not received the medication, leaving him “in pain and unable to properly eat solid meals causing rapid weight loss.” Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants’ conduct constitutes a denial of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. Id. at 6. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 6–7.

         Given the serious matters raised in Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court on May 14, 2018 directed counsel for Defendants and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to show cause why relief should not be granted. ECF No. 2. Counsel for Defendants filed a response to this Court’s Order to Show Cause on June 4, 2018 and attached supporting medical records.[4] ECF No. 5. On September 7, 2018, Defendants Wexford and Pierce filed a Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 12.

         Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiff suffers from several medical conditions for which he has been given pain medication. ECF No. 12-1 at 3. According to medical records attached to Defendants’ motion, Plaintiff was receiving the medications Tramadol and Neurontin for his pain complaints in 2017. ECF No. 12-3 at 7, 10. In August 2017, Plaintiff began to experience abdominal pain, and a consultation with a gastroenterologist was subsequently approved. Id. at 21, 26.

         By letter dated September 26, 2017, Mahboob Ashraf, M.D. informed Plaintiff that his “dose of Neurontin was written as 400mg po twice but pharmacy wrote to give you approved for tapering by 200mg per day.” Id. at 36. According to Asresahegn Getachew, M.D., acting Medical Director at WCI and NBCI, Neurontin was prescribed for Plaintiff for pain complaints related to a gunshot wound, but had since been deemed “no longer medically necessary.” ECF No. 12-5 ¶ 5. By October 9, 2017, an order for a tapering dose of Tramadol was also entered. ECF No. 12-3 at 40.

         On November 13, 2017, Plaintiff was seen at the NBCI medical unit complaining that he needed his prescription for pain medication renewed and that Ibuprofen he had received was hurting his stomach. Id. at 51. Plaintiff was educated on the use of Tramadol and was informed that its use for long term chronic pain is “not indicated.” Id. Nonetheless, Plaintiff’s prescription for Tramadol was reinstated on November 17, 2017, with a stop date of March 17, 2018. Id. at 53–54. That same day, it was noted that Dr. Abdi had diagnosed Plaintiff with colitis. See id.

         On March 8, 2018, Plaintiff’s prescription for Tramadol was extended again, this time through April 8, 2018. Id. at 91. As part of his continued gastroenterological care and treatment, on April 5, 2018, Plaintiff underwent a colonoscopy and endoscopic gastroduodenoscopy. ECF No. 12-7 at 22–23, 27–28. Following those procedures, Plaintiff was given new prescriptions for the medications Budesonide and Magox 400, as well as a continuing prescription for Imodium A-d. See ECF No. 12-3 at 99.

         Defendants acknowledge that following the procedures, Plaintiff was returned to NBCI and that “there was some miscommunication regarding his medications so that he was unable to obtain them for approximately 10 days.” ECF No. 12-1 at 6; see ECF No. 12-5 at 3. The provider who saw Plaintiff on April 17, 2018 noted that the “medication was ordered through pharmacy was [sic] faxed this afternoon.” ECF No. 12-3 at 99. The provider also noted Plaintiff’s weight as 173 pounds. Id. at 101. On May 1, 2018, Defendant Pierce ...


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