State Must Increase Doctors’ Pay at Prisons to Improve Retention, Report Finds
The state should increase doctors' salaries and take other steps to recruit and retain prison medical workers to begin addressing inadequate conditions within the prison health care system, according to a report released on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 11/15).
The report, written by correctional expert John Hagar, also recommended that responsibility for reforming the prison health care system should be transferred to a panel appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) (Cooper, Sacramento Bee, 11/15).
U.S District Judge Thelton Henderson in June placed the state prison health care system in receivership, citing "an unconscionable degree of suffering and death." Professional search firm Korn/Ferry International was hired to recommend a qualified candidate to take over the system. Hagar was appointed by the court to make recommendations on immediate steps the state could take to improve the system.
Hagar said medical staff vacancies at prisons have increased in recent months with some prisons operating with a physician vacancy rate of 50% or more, in part because of mandated performance evaluations that some doctors said lacked objective standards and were unfair (Los Angeles Times, 11/15). The report found a vacancy rate of more than 30% on average systemwide, with a vacancy rate of 65% for chief physicians and surgeons. In addition, the report found a vacancy rate of 36% for nurses and of more than 50% for some nurse supervisor positions.
To recruit and retain medical staff, Hagar recommends:
- Increasing doctors' base salaries to $12,519.10 monthly, effective next month;
- Recruiting nurse practitioners to fill vacant physician positions (Sacramento Bee, 11/15);
- Streamlining regulations on the hiring of doctors and accept or reject candidates within 10 days of receiving their applications;
- Establishing an orientation program for new prison doctors, including supervising and mentoring programs (Los Angeles Times, 11/15).