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Court experts cite 'serious' healthcare risks at Corcoran prison

July 30, 2013|By Paige St. John
  • California State Prison at Corcoran.
California State Prison at Corcoran. (California Department…)

This post has been updated. Please see note below.

SACRAMENTO -- Medical experts reporting to a federal court monitor say healthcare at the California state prison at Corcoran poses "an ongoing serious risk of harm to patients" that results in preventable deaths.

The report, filed in federal court Monday, finds "serious patient care issues" within the general hospital at the prison, including life-threatening infections caused by unsanitary conditions, nurses who did not check vitals and doctors who repeatedly "cut and paste" the same patient notes.

Three inmate deaths were described as likely preventable, including that of a diabetic man who was receiving the wrong insulin medication.

The reviewers also cited repeated lapses in patient care, including the case of a man whose ingrown toenails were left unattended until the nails had to be surgically removed, and a patient with valley fever who did not receive prescribed chest CT scans.

They noted "serious problems" in the quality of medical care provided to inmates in isolation units within the prison.

[Updated 12:30 p.m. July 30: A spokeswoman for the corrections department said the state is building and upgrading medical facilities in California prisons, but quality of the care inmates receive is under control of the court-appointed official put in charge of prison health care since 2006. "It would be more appropriate for his office to comment on this report," said corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman.

"We are the process of reading the report and will address the issues they have raised," said Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the medical receiver. "The experts reports show that both the Receivers Office and CDCR still have work to do in addressing issues in our various facilities."]

The expert review was conducted as California seeks to end federal court control of the state's prison healthcare system. Corcoran had already received passing marks from the state inspector general but, according to this report, failed to meet the required "adequate" rating from at least two of the three court-appointed reviewers.

The corrections department already has begun moving inmates who require medical care to the newly opened medical prison in Stockton, part of a $2-billion expansion program. It is built to hold 1,772 inmate patients.

In addition, it has dedicated a new mental health treatment facility at Corcoran, and announced this week that a new mental health treatment building at California State Prison-Sacramento has received energy efficiency certification.

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On Twitter @paigestjohn

paige.stjohn@latimes.com

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