Prison Doctors Accused of Malpractice Earn Full Pay for Little or No Work
Since 2006, California prisons have paid about $8.7 million to physicians and mental health professionals accused of malpractice who have been tasked with menial job duties or who perform no work, according to a review of public records by the Los Angeles Times.
A federal court called for a receivership to oversee California's prison health care system after ruling that the quality of care was so poor that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Receivers have been trying to improve care in part by replacing low-performing physicians with more qualified ones.
Before the receivership was set in place, physicians accused of incompetence typically were sent home and received paid leave while an internal investigation took place.
Nancy Kincaid, a spokesperson for California Correctional Health Care Services, said the first federal receiver Robert Sillen realized that physicians were being paid high salaries for doing no work, so he ordered them to return to work if only to do menial jobs.
Details of the Records
According to the state records reviewed by the Times, at least 30 suspended health care professionals have received six-figure salaries for 37 cumulative years.
Physicians facing disciplinary charges can take on menial tasks and receive full salaries while moving through the state appeals process to determine if they should be terminated.
J. Clark Kelso, the current prison receiver, has asked a federal court for the power to hire independent physicians who would review cases of physicians accused of incompetence, rather than rely on civil servants who work for the State Personnel Board to decide the cases (Dolan, Los Angeles Times, 11/28).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.