Overhaul of Prison Health System Enters Second Year
Robert Sillen this week will mark the end of his first year as federal court-appointed receiver in charge of reworking the California's prison health care system, a position with a wide scope of authority that continues to draw criticism from state lawmakers, the Contra Costa Times reports.
U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson last year appointed Sillen to oversee health care reforms to state prisons, where one inmate was dying almost weekly because of medical negligence or malpractice.
Sillen over the past year has improved retention of medical staff by ordering large pay raises and has expedited turnaround for lab results and appointments with specialists. Sillen also has ordered the introduction of computer technology to help physicians access medical histories.
Sillen has used $59 million of his first-year budget of $100 million. He says it is too soon to estimate future budgets, adding that overhauling the prison health care system could take at least 10 years.
Some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have requested hearings to challenge Sillen's authority over state funds.
The State Personnel Board has disagreed with Sillen over his opposition to pre-employment drug testing for licensed vocational nurses and his proposal to bypass civil service protections to fire physicians.
Sen. Mike Machado (D-Stockton), chair of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, said "in order to get to the point where the state can assume control over the medical provisions, it's going to take developing a greater partnership than now exists with" Sillen (Garcia, Contra Costa Times, 4/23).