Receiver Calls for Private Takeover of Prison Pharmacies
California prison pharmacies must be placed under private management because they waste tens of millions of dollars and put patients in danger, the federal receiver in charge of overseeing prison health care system reforms told a federal judge on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. Robert Sillen, the receiver, said the state is incapable of fixing problems in the prison pharmacy system (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 7/27).
An audit released in June and presented to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson on Wednesday found that the prison pharmacy system is "a horrid mess of damage and danger to inmate patients."
Matthew Keith -- pharmacy director of Maxor National Pharmacy Services' Correctional Healthcare services Division, which conducted the audit -- said the prison pharmacy system lacks "effective central oversight and leadership," noting that a committee meant to oversee the pharmacies rarely meets and does not enforce policy (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 7/27).
Auditors also found that nearly one-third of medications purchased by the state for inmates were never recorded as dispensed or accounted for in any way. In addition, the California prison system paid as much as $80 million more for prescription drugs last year than comparable prison systems.
Sillen said that he did not know how much a private management company would cost but that the state will save money over time by improving inventory control and fixing other deficiencies.
Sillen also called for pay increases for pharmacists and clinicians. He said the 43% vacancy rate at prison pharmacies is partly because of low wages. The state currently contracts with private firms to fill the vacancies, but the firms charge a fee and higher rates for providing pharmacists.
Henderson said he would "act as forcefully as the judicial branch can act" to address the problems.
A lawyer for the state said the Schwarzenegger administration supports private management of the pharmacies and will work with Sillen to expedite the contracting process. Sillen said he would have a proposed contract and an outline of salary increases within a month (Los Angeles Times, 7/27).
Sillen also said he would meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Aug. 3 to discuss improving and expanding medical facilities for inmates (Nelson, Orange County Register, 7/26).