STOCKTON (CBS SF) — A billion dollar prison medical clinic that’s sitting half empty will start readmitting the state’s sickest inmates, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Monday.
Admissions were temporarily halted six months ago amid reports of unsanitary conditions and shortages of staff and supplies. But some prison workers are saying not so fast.
It’s the crown jewel of California’s prison system: a brand new billion dollar healthcare facility designed to house the state’s sickest inmates. Wheelchair accessible cells are equipped with hospital beds. There’s a state of the art emergency room and a 29-chair dialysis clinic.
But the sprawling prison complex is eerily quiet, because it’s only half full. Admissions were shut down earlier this year after a court appointed receiver overseeing California’s prison healthcare system found too many problems.
“We were experiencing the issues of inmates not getting enough medical supplies,” said Joyce Hayhoe with the Receiver’s office. “Things like gloves for our nurses, food service, catheters.
One employee, who does not want to be identified, told us the facility simply wasn’t ready when it opened last summer, and he says it’s still not ready. “We don’t have enough officers, we don’t have enough nurses, they are spending money on other things,” he said.
When KPIX 5 visited the emergency room, it was empty. “I don’t know of any instances where it’s ever been used,” he said.
Instead inmates in need of emergency care are sent out to local hospitals in ambulances. And they are not the only ones going out for treatment. Even though there’s a primary care clinic that offers basic medical care and even a telemedicine hub so inmates can consult with outside specialists, inmates still go out daily to see doctors on the outside.
We spotted multiple prison transport vans at nearby San Joaquin hospital, taking inmates to non-emergency doctors’ visits. Documents we obtained show referrals out for “glucose checks,” “fever,” even just “not feeling well.”
“When we get to the hospital the nursing staff says why is this guy here? Every day it happens,” said the employee.
Even inmates we talked to confirmed people go out to the hospital all the time. The receiver’s Joyce Hayhoe admits it’s an issue. “There’s always room for improvement,” she said. But she says the public needs to understand: “The facility was not built as a hospital, but as a higher level healthcare facility. So we will always have inmates that need to go out to community hospitals.”
The receiver’s office points out outside hospital costs are down prison wide, from over $800-million dollars four years ago to just over 300 million now.