Judge Orders Staff Appointment, Other Actions in Prison Health Care Case
A federal judge on Thursday ordered Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to appoint by next Thursday a staff member to implement a series of emergency actions to address the quality issues in the state prison health care system, the Los Angeles Times reports (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 12/2).
Judge Thelton Henderson on Thursday said state officials "still fail to grasp the gravity" of the crisis in the prison system. He said that state lawyers at a hearing last week "were content to invoke bureaucratic red tape and 'business as usual' procedures as roadblocks" rather than "voicing an aggressive commitment to the recommended reforms" (Cooper, Sacramento Bee, 12/2).
Henderson's order directs the state to carry out recommendations made by correctional expert John Hagar on immediate action to address the most urgent problems. The recommendations include:
- Increasing prison doctors' salaries by 10% to about $150,000 annually;
- Increasing nurses' pay by 18%;
- Increasing the salary of medical directors and clinical supervisors at prisons to encourage doctors to pursue management positions;
- Requiring managers to notify all staff physicians of every job opening; and
- Assessing and accepting or rejecting candidates within 10 days of their submitting an application (Los Angeles Times, 12/2).
The judge also ordered a detailed status report on the emergency changes by Dec. 15 from the person designated to oversee the reforms. In addition, Henderson ordered that inspections of prisons with the largest clinical staff shortages be conducted by medical experts in January and February.
According to the Times, some lawyers said Schwarzenegger could face contempt charges if he does not comply with the order, although Henderson's order does not raise the possibility of contempt charges.
A Schwarzenegger spokesperson on Thursday said Peter Farber-Szekrenyi, who was appointed chief of prison health care services this week, "will be held accountable and responsible by the governor for bringing needed reforms" and will work with the Governor's Office on needed changes. The spokesperson said Farber-Szekrenyi will report to Henderson (Sacramento Bee, 12/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.