A Chinese man in Scotland’s main immigration centre probably suffered at least two heart attacks in custody before he died, a sheriff has ruled.
Xi Biao Huang, 54, died at Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, in 2017.
At a fatal accident inquiry at Hamilton Sheriff Court, Sheriff Colin Dunipace said the grandfather’s death “might realistically” have been prevented.
He criticised the medical treatment given to the detainee.
And he described the official approach to the use of interpreters as “vague, haphazard and ambiguous” for non-English speakers.
The inquiry heard that Mr Huang had been born in China but had lived in Liverpool for about 15 years with his family when his immigration status was questioned after he lost his job in 2017.
He was detained at Dungavel on 5 September and died exactly two weeks later, having never seen a doctor despite frequently complaining of chest pains.
In phone conversations with his family, he told them the pain was “unbearable”.
His language was recorded as Cantonese but he was a Taishanese speaker, with some understanding of Cantonese. It was also recorded that Mr Huang spoke Mandarin but this was not true.
The day before he died he spoke to nurses through an interpreter – a fellow Chinese detainee – who was not a Taishanese speaker.
He was prescribed Peptac, a peppermint-flavoured remedy for indigestion.
Sheriff Dunipace said this was probably a “cardiac event”.
Mr Huang died the following day, having never been taken to hospital.
A post mortem examination discovered “significant” heart disease and that he had probably suffered a heart attack two weeks before his death and again the day before he died.
Dr Stephen Hearns, a consultant in emergency medicine, told the inquiry that, had Mr Huang been taken to hospital, the chances of him dying would have been “significantly reduced”.
Dungavel is the responsibility of the Home Office but at the time of Mr Huang’s death it was being run by the GEO Group.
The centre’s minor ailment policy was operated by the primary medical care provider, Med Co.
Sheriff Dunipace made a series of recommendations including that record-keeping is improved, and about access to GPs and translation services when dealing with detainees who are unable to speak English.
In his determination, he said: “Regrettably, there were a number of systemic problems inherent within the Dungavel establishment, which were exacerbated by individual clinical decisions which I have highlighted.
“I am also heartened to note that since the tragic death of Mr Huang that a number of changes have been introduced to deal with a number of these issues by Med Co.”
He said he hoped his recommendations would ensure similar deaths were avoided in the future.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mr Huang.
“We take the welfare of all those in our care incredibly seriously and will carefully consider the findings of the Sheriff.”