AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

As doctor departs, prison health care probe continues

Lying about his employment history on his job application cost Georgia prison doctor Yvon Nazaire his job, but questions linger for his former employer, Georgia Correctional Health Care, a branch of Georgia Regents University in Augusta.

The university began investigating Nazaire in July after a series of stories in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed the questionable deaths of female inmates in his care along with the discrepancies between what appeared on his application and where he actually worked.

The university has since expanded its probe to include the school’s management of health care in the state prison system as a whole, but where that stands is as yet unknown.

University spokeswoman Christen Carter told the AJC in an email this week that the probe is “still active” and that she couldn’t say anything else about it until it’s complete.

Nazaire was one of 50 physicians working for Georgia Correctional Health Care, which provides medical care in Georgia’s state prisons under a contract in which the Department of Corrections pays the university roughly $170 million a year.

He was, in fact, one of the Georgia Correctional Health Care’s top people, according to his performance reviews. In his nine years with the organization, he often garnered praise for keeping costs down by limiting outside consultations.

But all that ended Sept. 3 when he was fired from his $174,300-a-year position as medical director at Pulaski State Prison in Hawkinsville because he misrepresented his work history on an application he completed in September 2006.

That’s a serious matter in Georgia, where providing false information to acquire a state position can be prosecuted as a felony, punishable with a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Meantime, the university’s investigation continues.

One who is awaiting the outcome is Tonya Edwards, a Moultrie resident whose mother, Donna Sanders, died at Pulaski in 2013. Under Nazaire’s orders, Sanders was confined to a room in the prison infirmary even as her blood oxygen level sank to a dangerously low level.

Edwards wants to know more about her mother’s death, and now, with the finding that Nazaire lied about his employment history, she has another issue.

“I don’t understand how they did not check his background and his employers,” she said.

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About the Author

Danny Robbins in an investigative reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.