Virginia corrections officials said yesterday they are investigating charges that improper care caused an inmate in the infirmary at the state penitentiary in Richmond to develop bed sores that became infested with maggots.
Henry Tucker, of Halifax County, who is serving a 40-year sentence for breaking and entering with intent to commit rape, was transferred from the infirmary to the Medical C ollege of Virginia Hospital on Sept. 15, a hospital spokesman said.
At that time, the infection in his legs was so serious that doctors considered amputating his legs, the spokesman said. Tucker is now in satisfactory condition at the hospital.
Dr. W. L. Wingfield, medical director for the state Department of Corrections, said that the prison staff "did the best they could" in caring for Tucker, "but it's an infirmary, not a hospital. There's no question he's had the best care that's possible in an infirmary.
Nevertheless, Wingfield said, the sores might not have become infested if there were more nurses on duty at the prison infirmary. One doctor and 12 nurses care for the inmates as the 40-bed infirmary.
Wingfield contended, however, that the caggots, which come from flies eggs, might have infested Tucker's would regardless of the size of the infirmary, staff. "I haven't seen any place that's free of flies yet," Wingfield said. "You find them in the best hospitals."
A doctor at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, said that while bedsores are a "not infrequent" occurrence among hospitalized patients, he had "never seen maggots in a hospital, unless they've come in from the outside with the patient."
Tucker's bed sores were particularly hard to treat, Wingfield said, because the inmate suffers from a catatonic condition that renders him immobile. His joints, Wingfield said, are "frozen" in a quasi-fetal position.
Several doctors said that maggots' presence in open wounds such as bedsores is not always dangerous to a patient. In fact, an MCV spokesperson said maggots, because they feed on dead flesh were once used by doctors as a way of cleaning infected wounds.