Five Florida Prison Infirmaries Closed by State Action

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Subject: Five Florida Prison Infirmaries Closed by State Action

Five Florida Prison Infirmaries Closed by State Action
Associated Press

Pressure from state health regulators forced the state Corrections Department to close five prison infirmaries because it didn't have adequate nursing staff.

The move affected 38 inmates at Allendale, Turbeville, Lieber Correctional Institution in Dorchester County, Evans Correctional Institution in Marlboro County, and Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia, forcing Corrections to scramble for bed space for the inmates.

While 20 were moved to an infirmary at Kirkland Correctional Institution, 18 went to Columbia Care, a facility run by Just Care Inc. of Alabama. That costs $20,000 more each year for each inmate than could have been provided in the infirmaries, Corrections chief accountant Bruce Burnett warned in a December memo.

The basic costs for inmates are $119 daily at the private facility, down from $139 at the infirmaries, Dr. J.L. Gowan, Corrections' medical director, said. But Gowan says direct comparisons are difficult and depend on each inmate's condition and medical needs.

"There are several variables to be considered in this projection, all related to infirmary and medical staffing patterns, but I am certain that privatization of the infirmaries will not be a cost savings," Burnett wrote.

Gowan said he didn't get supporting documentation he sought from Burnett for the higher cost estimate. "Mr. Burnett doesn't have any true figures to base that on," he said of the memo.

The transfers and potentially higher costs come amid change and tight money at the state prison agency.

The Corrections Department has seen its budget slashed 23 percent since May 2001 and has lost about 1,400 jobs. Jon Ozmint, Gov. Mark Sanford director-designate for the Corrections Department, said he was briefed on the change for at least 35 minutes after he started work on Jan. 15. He says he was not aware of Burnett's memo, but defended the move.

Hiring and retaining nurses was "not a solution that would work right now" because of a nationwide nursing shortage, he said.