Kelso Says State Budget Issues Placing Strain on Prison Health Care Staff
On Monday, federal receiver J. Clark Kelso said budgetary challenges and staffing pressures could account for some ongoing deficiencies in California's prison health care system, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Kelso held a news conference to respond to a recent Bee investigation of prison health care staffing practices. He also released a report on 2008 prison deaths.
Response to Bee Investigation
The Bee's investigation found that California spent nearly $60 million on overtime wages for state prison health care workers in 2008. In addition, the state spent about $152 million to employ temporary prison clinicians during the previous fiscal year.
Kelso said insufficient state budgets helped account for the excessive overtime and the overreliance on temporary workers. He added that overtime hours have decreased in recent months.
Kelso also said the state is improving its recruiting process to encourage more health workers to join the prison system. However, he also stressed that many clinicians are reluctant to work in remote locations in a prison environment.
Regardless of whether officials manage to enlist more prison health workers, California's prison system will continue to suffer from deficient medical records, overcrowding and sub-par facilities, Kelso said.
He called for the state to approve construction funds for new prison hospitals to address the persistent shortfalls.
Prison Deaths Report
Kelso's report on prison deaths found that about 66 inmate deaths were likely or possibly preventable in 2008. The figure is two fewer than in 2007 and the same as in 2006.
The report also classified 362 incidents as "extreme departures from the standard of care," some of which contributed to the preventable deaths.However, Kelso maintained that the prison health care system steadily is improving. He noted that the overall prison death rate declined by about 13% between 2006 and 2008 (Piller, Sacramento Bee, 12/15). 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.