Los Angeles Mayor Proposes ‘Phase Out’ of Doctors at Three City Jails to Reduce Costs
Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn (D) has announced a cost-cutting budget proposal that would reduce the number of physicians at three city jails and rely on nurses to provide care -- a plan that some opponents say could endanger the health of inmates and "end up costing the city more than it saves," the Los Angeles Times reports. About 12 doctors and 24 nurses provide 24-hour care at the city's three largest jails, but Hahn's proposal would "phase out" doctors through attrition. Under the proposal, which would take several years to implement fully, 28 nurses and four part-time doctors would treat inmates at the three jails. Nurses and part-time doctors would send inmates who required additional care to a hospital -- "something that already happens now with doctors in the jails," city Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said. According to Tom Coultas, assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Personnel Department, the proposal would save the city $138,816 this year and $1.4 million per year after full implementation.
Officials from the Los Angeles Police Department and others said that Hahn's proposal could "expose" the city to lawsuits and take police officers "off the streets." Peter DiCarlo, civilian commanding officer of the LAPD jail division, said that the transfers would require two police officers to transport inmates to the hospital, monitor them for several hours and return them to jail, which "pulls more officers out of street patrol." In a letter to the Los Angeles City Council Budget Committee, LAPD Chief Bernard Parks wrote that nurses refer about 80% of inmates to doctors and that they would have to transfer many inmates to hospitals under the proposal. Each transfer would cost the city more than $1,000, Parks wrote. He added that "savings accrued by phasing out 24-hour physician staffing at the three Jail Division infirmaries could be wiped out by a single lawsuit resulting from inadequate care" (Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 5/6).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.