Union ‘Pressures’ Lawmaker to Alter Prison Nurses Bill
A bill (SB 396) that aims to eliminate nurses trained as guards from California prisons is facing "pressure" from the "powerful union" that represents the 1,000 workers who fill this "dual role," the Fresno Bee reports. Introduced by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the bill originally contained a provision to eliminate medical technical assistants, or MTAs, most of whom are licensed vocational nurses or registered nurses who receive basic training as prison guards. MTAs are often the "first line of health care" for the 160,000 inmates in the state's prison system, a situation that Kuehl and inmate advocates say "confuses health care with prison security." But Kuehl agreed to "scrap" the MTA elimination provision after "a round of lobbying" from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association "guaranteed she wouldn't get enough votes from lawmakers," the Bee reports. MTAs and the guards' union say that eliminating the position "would only compromise health care in prisons, where doctors and nurses are already in short supply." Although prison advocates are "disappointed" that Kuehl decided to change the bill, Kuehl said the measure still contains provisions that will improve inmate health care. One provision would eliminate the $5 copay for inmate doctor visits, and another would require accreditation for all prison medical facilities. A third provision would "more clearly define" the medical duties of MTAs who are licensed vocational nurses (Maxwell, Fresno Bee, 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.