Wednesday, July 11, 2012
TDCJ reducing medical clinic hours on some prison units to save money
By Max Rodriguez, Backgate Website
The Texas Senate's finance committee met Monday at the capitol to discuss the ongoing funding of prison medical services. Texas Tech University, along with the University of Texas medical branch service the medical needs of the agency, but for how much longer ? Chairman of the finance committee, Senator Steve Ogden stated that the state foresees a shortfall of at least $58 million dollars when it comes to paying for prison healthcare. The prison healthcare contract for TDCJ isn't set to expire until the 2013 Legislative session and Ogden hopes for changes or clarity by then. " There is no crisis at the moment" said Ogden.
UTMB was said to be the only provider that was unhappy with the current contract, Texas Tech states they are fine as is under the current contract even though they too have had to reduce staffing and work hours to save money. Staff on hand at the hearings from both providers stated that in some cases clinic hours have been cut by as much as 50% on some units. 12- hour facilities have scaled back to 8 -hours. Weekend manned medical departments are now closed on weekends.
University of Texas Medical Branch, Dr. Owen Murray, said that because of staffing cuts guards are now expected to help make medical decisions that nurses and doctors once made."Is this headed the same direction as the agency was in the 80's and early 90's where inmates were the nurses and Officers were acting doctors? When line staff are forced to be evaluating doctors and decide who gets medical care after hours and who doesn't it makes for increased liability for staff. Senator Whitmire agreed that line staff should not have to be responsible to make medical decisions after hours. Whitmire also brought up the fact that one TDCJ offender has been comatose for sometime, will not recover, and the state spends 2 million a year in medical care for that offender. He said he would much rather spend the money on TDCJ staffing or border security then to keep that offender alive.
The taste of Federal mandate issued by Judge William Wayne Justice years back lingers in the mouths of those who have been around awhile. Let's just hope that cuts in medical services doesn't put us back under those mandates that are sure to encompass more then just healthcare if the feds have their way. One alternative the committee heard was outsourcing medical care to a private company. Corizon Health Care based in Nashville, presented a ten minute presentation to the committee on the savings a private medical care company can provide to state government. We will see how it turns out.