Inmates at the high-security California State Prison, Sacramento, better known as “New Folsom,” may not receive adequate medical care because of a “critical shortage” of doctors, according to findings from a state audit reported by the Sacramento Bee.
The audit by the Office of the Inspector General found “that the prison had an acute shortage of doctors and an 11 percent vacancy rate among its 137 medical positions,” including a 43 percent shortage of primary care providers.
The doctors there “complained that current work conditions were unsustainable, and many were actively looking for employment elsewhere,” according to the report. The audit was based primarily on records between July and September 2016.
New Folsom is considered one of the most dangerous prisons in the state and a difficult place to work. The maximum-security facility houses inmates with behavior problems, mental health issues and high-risk medical conditions.
“When you put all of these factors together, when doctors choose to work in a state prison facility, they have other places that might be more attractive,” said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for a court-appointed federal receivership that took control of prison healthcare in the state in 2006.
Hayhoe told the Sacramento Bee that New Folsom was an exception to an overall improvement in medical services in state prisons. The federal program has been returning the management of such services to the state as they demonstrate better care. She said that most prisons are expected to leave the receivership this year.
Specifically, the inspector general cited seven “adverse” events in its audit. One inmate diagnosed with coronary artery disease died several months after he ran out of pills from his prescription for a cholesterol drug.
“He did not get a refill, and he did not see a doctor for the eight months…”
“He did not get a refill, and he did not see a doctor for the eight months he spent in California State Prison, Sacramento,” the Bee reported.
In another case, an inmate was turned away twice by nurses after he complained about bloody diarrhea. He was transferred to an outside hospital only after a third appeal for help.
The report also mentioned an unresponsive patient who did not receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 12 minutes after he became unconscious from an accidental overdose.
According to the Sacramento Bee’s summary of the report, the medical staff at the prison was slow to respond to emergencies, properly review medical files, maintain oversight of inmates receiving opioid-based medication and arrange medical appointments for new inmates.
The prison “has remained in the bottom tier of prison health services” since the inspector general began publishing regular reports on prison health care in 2010, the audit noted.
The audit result, also acknowledged that New Folsom had projects underway that could improve healthcare in the future, such as the construction of a new primary care clinic for patients with serious mental health diagnoses, renovation of other clinics and the development of a new central health services building.
The prison will also be among one of 12 prisons that will offer doctors a 15 percent pay raise through 2020, said the report. That would be on top of a 9 percent wage increase planned for all prison doctors in the next three years. In 2014, state prison doctors earned $240,000 a year on average.