Audits show gaps in prisoner care
02/07/03, Birmingham News
News staff writer
MONTGOMERY Medical consultants hired to review health-care services in Alabama prisons have reported
what a lawyer for inmates calls "serious deficiencies."
Audits by Chicago-based Jacqueline Moore and Associates show, among other problems, backlogs of up
to six weeks in dental services at Tutwiler Prison for Women and improper handling of controlled substances
at St. Clair Correctional Facility.
The audit reports released Thursday were ordered last year by the Siegelman administration to monitor health
care services provided to prison inmates by NaphCare, a Birmingham-based health management contractor.
Former Prison Commissioner Mike Haley and former Gov. Don Siegelman refused repeated requests last year to release the reports, conducted at eight Alabama prisons between May and August.
"This is totally consistent with what the prisoners have been telling us, that they have to wait for weeks for dental services, for things such as abscesses which are so painful that some of the women are pulling their own teeth," said Tamara Serwer of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is representing inmates in a pending federal lawsuit. "These are serious deficiencies in health care services for Alabama prison inmates."
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled Dec. 2 that there are widespread constitutional violations at
Tutwiler. Thompson has given the state until Feb. 21 to file a plan for correcting the problems at Tutwiler.
Gov. Bob Riley's prison commissioner, Donal Campbell, released the audit reports Thursday.
Brian Corbett, the prison system's information officer, said Campbell is concerned that quality health care is delivered to inmates at all Alabama prisons. Corbett said he couldn't confirm whether deficiencies outlined in the audit reports have been corrected, and efforts to reach a NaphCare spokesman were unsuccessful.
The audit report on St. Clair Correctional Facility said there were approximately 1,400 doses of controlled substances stored in the health service administrator's office "that were not counted or recorded."
"This practice is a violation of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency and is also a violation of the security of the institution," the report stated. "Maintaining controlled drugs in improper cabinets invites theft of the medications by inmates, officers and providers and places the security of the facility at risk."
An audit report on Kilby Correctional Facility near Montgomery, the prison system's central admissions unit, said an inmate with HIV had been waiting more than 20 days for transfer to an assigned prison and the warden said such transfers could take up to eight weeks.
Treatment of AIDS patients is delayed, the report stated, until the inmate is transferred, which "could cause mutations in the HIV virus, which would later be resistant to treatment."
The audit reports also showed backlogs in dental services at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County, where a backlog of 160 inmates waited for dental care. At Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore County, 40 percent of the medical staff positions, including that of the physician and six nurses, were reported vacant.