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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Calif. Prison System Dinged for Inadequate Inmate Care

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - California's efforts to regain control of its prison medical system after a decade of federal oversight were hindered Tuesday after an inspection revealed unsanitary conditions and major lapses in inmate care at a state prison.

A report by the state inspector general found dirty conditions at California State Prison Solano and a lack of medical equipment and supplies at most of the prison's clinics. The 101-page report found the prison was "inadequate" in most of the quality indicators used to grade the health care system and that it has "severe problems" processing and recording laboratory reports.

The prison - located in Vacaville, 35 miles southwest of Sacramento - didn't receive a proficient grade in any of the 10 categories used by the inspector general.

California's notorious inmate health care system has been under federal control since 2005 and the state auditor has classified the Correctional Health Care Services as a high-risk institution. Only Folsom State Prison has regained control over inmate health care from the federal government since all 34 state prisons were turned over to a federal receiver more than 10 years ago.

The inspector general evaluated 62 inmates' medical files and reviewed each of the medical providers at the prison overseeing more than 3,800 inmates. According to the report, some providers did not have enough room for inmate examinations and many failed to perform proper follow-up tests and treatment.

After an inmate was transferred back to the prison from an outside hospital, prison medical staff failed to follow up with the man for over six weeks after he had a large mass removed from his thyroid gland, the report notes.

"This was a complete lapse in care, and this adverse event was classified as an unsafe condition," the report states.

One inmate was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and a prison pharmacist failed to transfer the inmate's prescription from the hospital. Two weeks later, the inmate returned to the hospital for recurrent congestive heart failure due to the prison's "lapse in care."

According to the report, the pharmacist was fired after the incident.

Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the California Correctional Health Care Services and the federal receiver's office, said the review was conducted six months ago and that the prison "has already addressed many of the concerns raised in the report."

Hayhoe also said the inspector general's report is just one of the tools used by the federal receiver to determine if a prison's health care system is ready to be turned back to the state.

"We will carefully review the information contained in the report, along with other internal and external information available to us, to determine whether the facility is ready for delegation," Hayhoe said in a statement.

The report recommends the state improve its inmate medical-record system and provide better training for nurses caring for inmates returning from outside care. It also recommends medical staff be provided "unhindered access to personal protective equipment" and additional basic sanitary supplies such as biohazard cans, "sharps" containers and tongue depressors.

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