By DAVID MARSH
San Quentin health care is improving, but there are still serious problems, a group of inmates reported at a meeting with medical and administrative staff.
The March 13 meeting included Acting Warden R.K. Wong, Director of Nursing M. Lupian, Chief Nursing Executive D. Beetham, Exectuive Officer for the Receiver J. Clark, Chief Medical Officer E. Tootell, Associate Warden K.J. Williams and Correctional Lt. R. Luna.
Inmates were represented by the entire East Block Advisory Council (EBAC), plus representatives of North Block MAC and H-Unit.
Problems reported by EBAC representatives included the delay of medical appeals (602s), use of a needless triage process for medication refills, incomplete or missing prescription refills, waits of up to 2 ½ years for dental treatments, medical ducats that conflict with visiting times and, when missed, result in a write-up, failure of the escort staff to accompany inmates to ducated appointments, lack of information and routine care for aging prisoners, lack of routine maintenance on broken equipment and improper charges of co-pay fees.
On another matter, EBAC asked about the possibility of receiving medical marijuana by prescription. Lt. Luna replied: “Nice try.”
Clark said S.Q. has the highest back-logged and unanswered 602s but recent medical staff additions should help solve the problem.
She reported a new ombudsman position has been created that will enable an inmate patient’s advocate to visit prisoners in their housing units to help resolve issues before the need for a 602 arises.
“The administration understands that medical issues are the most important issues among inmates across the state,” said Clark, “We are making every effort to resolve problems with the new system.”
She acknowledged that breakdowns in communication have lead to improperly billing inmates and insisted that solutions are coming.
Clark also said that broken equipment will be addressed.
The medical staff stressed that new record-keeping methods will enable staff to track inmates better and prevent scheduling conflicts.
For representatives of North Block, the primary cause for concern was the recent posting that inmates holding lower bunk chronos (informational documentation) will be subject to possible immediate transfer to another prison. Council members expressed the belief that such transfers were punitive in nature.
“I’m left with no other alternative,” said Acting Warden Wong. He said chronos exceed the number of lower bunks. “What else can I do?” said Wong.
North Block residents share the concerns and confusion among inmates of East Block surrounding the dispensing of Keep on Person (KOP) medications. Staff responded that new and clearer guidelines will be distributed, listing which medications will be automatically re-issued and which KOP medications must be requested on a medical services request form.
FIBER TAB ISSUE
North Block representatives said inmates are dissatisfied with the perceived ineffectiveness of the fiber tabs prescribed as a replacement for Metamucil, which is currently unavailable.
The primary concerns expressed by the H Unit MAC chairman were medication being prescribed in improper dosages, which necessitates pills having to be cut in half to achieve the proper dose prescription, and bags of medication which do not contain the full number of prescribed pills.
Medical staff said they were unaware of these problems, and that issues raised by the MAC members would be studied and properly addressed.
It was agreed that future meetings would be on a quarterly basis and that the department chiefs of Mental Health and Dental would attend.