Grim reality of prison health care

  1. Soledad, Monterey County -- As the medical staff at the Correctional Training Facility prison gathered recently for its morning meeting, doctors and nurses let loose with another day's frustrations.

    A team of guards had shown up unannounced and cleared the infirmary of all black inmates that morning, to avoid fistfights with several Latinos coming in for X-rays. Racial violence has been growing in the badly crowded prison, which was built for 2,815 inmates but holds 7,000. The incursion worsened an already severe appointment backlog.

    Then there was the local hospital that wanted to send back an inmate dying of liver disease. The prison didn't have facilities to care for him -- the reason he'd been sent to the hospital twice before, at a cost to taxpayers of $50,877.75 for just 11 days. The staff was scrambling to find a prison that could take him.
    Last, the head nurse explained that the infirmary had signed a contract for a mobile CAT scan to come to the prison, instead of transporting inmates to hospitals at high cost. But four months later, it had yet to make a visit because of a dispute over how it would be guarded. (Resolving the problem took several more weeks.)

    Full Story: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...NGJHF92F51.DTL
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   Jessy_RN
    A double yikes!
  4. by   traumaRUs
    I am not making excuses. However, the prison system is so over-populated with the mentally ill that aren't receiving adequate treatment, that it can't function.
  5. by   VickyRN
    Another interesting point - inmates are the only population in the US with a "right" to health care. At least they are "guaranteed" health services. The rest of the US population is not
  6. by   Zigeunerin
    We can thank the Democrats for closing down the state and county mental health hospitals. Now mentally ill can rot in prisons instead or lie under the bridges and freeze to death.

    If you think there is lousy care given to adult inmates, you need to check out the juvenile prision system. We have not changed that much in the last 100 years taking care of the chronically ill mental health.

    Crazy people are not vogue.
  7. by   Nurse Ratched
    We can thank the Democrats for closing down the state and county mental health hospitals. Now mentally ill can rot in prisons instead or lie under the bridges and freeze to death.
    Actually, I recall that this happened on President Reagan's watch.

    When Ronald Reagan was governor of California he systematically began closing down mental hospitals, later as president he would cut aid for federally-funded community mental health programs. It is not a coincidence that the homeless populations in the state of California grew in the seventies and eighties. The people were put out on the street when mental hospitals started to close all over the state.

    Seeing an increase in crime, and brutal murders by Herb Mullin, a mental hospital patient, the state legislature passed a law that would stop Reagan from closing even more state-funded mental health hospitals. But Reagan would not be outdone. In 1980, congress proposed new legislation (PL 96-398) called the community mental health systems act (crafted by Ted Kennedy), but the program was killed by newly-elected President Ronald Reagan. This action ended the federal community mental health centers (see timeline on this link) program and its funding.
    The above from a review of The Economy in the Reagan Years http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/031...lance&n=283155

    Review found at http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/06/08/203007.php

    I myself distinctly recall the mid-eighties closing of the area state mental hospital and its consequences on the community where I resided at the time.
  8. by   traumaRUs
    I live in central IL and our Governor closed our state hospital in 2001 and diverted many $$$ from our outpatient mental health programs. Its sinful that the mentally ill are the totally disenfranchised of our community. With adequate meds and counseling, most of the chronically mentally ill can become productive citizens instead of being ignored or abused in the penal system.
  9. by   ZZTopRN
    Absolutely correct, Nurse Ratched!! Penny wise, pound foolish.
  10. by   gr8rnpjt
    Quote from Nurse Ratched
    Actually, I recall that this happened on President Reagan's watch.

    I myself distinctly recall the mid-eighties closing of the area state mental hospital and its consequences on the community where I resided at the time.
    :yeahthat:
  11. by   worldtraveler
    Quote from Zigeunerin
    We can thank the Democrats for closing down the state and county mental health hospitals. Now mentally ill can rot in prisons instead or lie under the bridges and freeze to death.

    If you think there is lousy care given to adult inmates, you need to check out the juvenile prision system. We have not changed that much in the last 100 years taking care of the chronically ill mental health.

    Crazy people are not vogue.

    You obviously don't live in Florida! Come on down and see what Governor Jeb Bush has done in the Florida Prison system.! And he is Republican BTW. I won't go into his meddling in the Terri Schiavo Case! And lest we not forget Texas, review what his Brother(who is now our Prez) did not do in the Texas Prisons, arguably Amongst the worst in the nation. Plenty of Blame to go around in both Parties that is for sure!
  12. by   wtbcrna
    Prison nursing is quite different from other nursing. I have never worked in the California prison system, but I have worked in Texas prison system and I thought overall the medical care the inmates got was above par what most people get on the outside. The Texas prisons' medical services are contracted thru Univ of Tx @ Galeveston and Texas Tech Univ depending on which side of the state the prison is located.
    Inmates got seen for routine medical care (coughs/colds etc.) usually within 24hrs of making a request, and then there was 24/7 emergency care. It is quite different perspective than civilian nursing and security always comes first! I had my tiffs w/ the guards over pt care issues on several occassions, but I believe the guards always had my best interests/safety in mind.
    The real problem with our penal system is we are to interested in punishment vs. rehabilation. The last statistic I heard for Texas inmates is that 65% will return to prison after being paroled. Don't get me wrong I am not a liberal who believes you can hug these guys and everything will be ok.
    As far as President Bush being responsible for the condition of the Texas prison systems that is crazy. The Texas prison system has in years past went from inmates providing medical care to other inmates to research based practice with the medical contracts from two univerisities. The overcrowding in prisons will continue as long as the public is more interested in punishment instead of rehabilitation.
    Here is a thought to leave you with: The number one indicator for an inmate coming back to prison is the amount of education they have &/or received while in prison.
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    Quote from wtbcrna
    ... The number one indicator for an inmate coming back to prison is the amount of education they have &/or received while in prison.
    Out brilliant tech support man just retired.
    He told of being a foster child put out on his 18th birthday although still in high school. He was arrested for possesion of marijuana.
    In prison during the end of Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown he finished highschool and learned to work with early punch card computers.
    He kept up with the field, earned a masters degree, married, raised a family, and now is a hospital volunteer.

    If the conditions were as they are now - who knows?

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