California prison chief wants private inmate health care |

California prison chief wants private inmate health care

SACRAMENTO – The California prison system, plagued by mismanagement and negligence in delivering health care to inmates, is ill-equipped to provide hospital services to prisoners and should let an independent health care provider take over, the state’s corrections chief said Friday.”Clearly, I’ve seen examples where inmates are dying due to a lack of care in the system,” Acting Corrections Secretary James Tilton said. “The facts are there: We have people not getting appropriate care.”A federal receiver took control of the prisons’ medical system in April after a U.S. District Court judge found that an average of one inmate a week was dying of malpractice or neglect.The receiver has authority to mandate wide-ranging reforms that could cost California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.The department should spin off health care duties to an independent organization such as a university or private medical system, Tilton said during an interview with The Associated Press. He also said the answer may be to create a new state agency.”It could very well be run as a state Department of Health Care,” Tilton said. “The issue is an independent health organization … separating the entity and not having it report to me.”He equated the idea to the way the state Department of Mental Health already handles inmates with acute mental illnesses, a consequence of one of the many class-action lawsuits increasingly driving prison operations.”Something like that is what we need for the health facilities,” Tilton said.In an interview last month, Robert Sillen, the receiver, told the AP that the state prison system eventually should contract health care services to an independent government or private provider. Sillen’s office said Friday that it welcomed Tilton’s support.Meanwhile, Sillen plans to order that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sharply increase pay for its medical staff. That would help in hiring better health care workers, initially driving up costs but eventually bringing more efficient care, he said.Tilton said his department has difficulty attracting top doctors, nurses and pharmacists who don’t want to work for a prison system. That’s why he welcomed help from the state Mental Health Department.Tilton also endorsed Sillen’s suggestion that the two new prisons that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to build should be used for medical and mental health care.The governor is asking lawmakers returning from their summer recess Monday to approve $1.2 billion prisons that would provide 9,000 beds. It’s part of a $6 billion program intended to ease overcrowding of 172,000 inmates housed in a system designed for 100,000.Tilton said Sillen’s proposal would help with both crowding and inmate care.”It won’t be a duplication,” Tilton said. “My goal is to get beds to meet the needs of the (inmate) population.”

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User