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Prisoner advocates say health care hasn't improved under new provider

The following article in the Daily Record, released by the Capital News Service, reports on the testimony of PJC attorney Wendy Hess to a state legislative briefing about the performance of the new contractor -- Correctional Medical Services -- the state has hired to provide health care to prisoners.   The state terminated the contract of the prior contractor, Prison Health Services, after the inadequacies of care were made public, including by the PJC and its video "Infected: the Baltimore City Detention Center's Hidden Health Crisis." Ms. Hess' testimony was based on actual observations of the PJC prison team of conditions in the Baltimore City Detention Center and through interviews and declarations of clients in the jail.
 
Daily Record
Volume: 5   Number: 419_law

November 16, 2005
Prisoner advocates say health care hasn't improved under new provider
 
By CHRIS LANDERS
Capital News Service
 

Despite a new provider, prisoner advocates say Maryland inmates are still receiving poor health care.
Correctional Medical Services, based in St. Louis, is one of five companies that took over the contract to provide care to Maryland inmates in July. CMS was awarded the largest share of the contract— $125.6 million over two years — after the previous contractor came under heavy criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and others over the quality of care given to inmates.
 
The ACLU and the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center say CMS isn't doing much better.
 
“We're basically seeing a lot of the same problems,” said Wendy Hess, an attorney for the justice center. Hess spoke at a briefing for state legislators yesterday.
 
Hess, who gathers information by interviewing prisoners at area jails, said she has heard recent complaints of AIDS patients without access to medication, diabetics denied insulin, and a woman who waited a month for anti-psychotic medication. Hess told legislators that although her evidence was largely anecdotal, it was “representative of larger systemic problems.”
 
Bruce C. Bereano, a lobbyist for CMS who attended the briefing, said the accusations took him by surprise.
“I'm not trying to be nasty, but she doesn't know what she's talking about,” Bereano said. “CMS has an exemplary track record in the state of Maryland.” Bereano said the contract had only been in effect for a few months, and it was too soon to draw conclusions.
 
Outside the briefing, Hess said that she had heard that argument before, and believes there has been plenty of time for improvement, especially where patient safety is concerned.
 
Walter Wirsching, director of Inmate Health Services for the state, told legislators that, under CMS, the number of physicians serving inmates had almost doubled, and backlogs at Baltimore's Central Booking facility decreased from 14 days to 2 days. Wirsching said all prison facilities in Maryland would have electronic health records for inmates by mid-December, a system implemented last week.

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