Incompetent doctors, including some with substance abuse or mental health problems, have been hired by California’s prison system and have contributed to serious deficiencies in health care for inmates, says the Los Angeles Times. A federal court report released yesterday said that at one facility, half of the eight doctors had prior criminal charges, loss of privileges at community hospitals, or mental health problems. At another, seven of 20 doctors had similar problems. “There appears to be an emerging pattern of inadequate and seriously deficient physician quality” in prisons, a panel of experts told U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.
California Department of Corrections officials said they were devising a plan to improve prison medical services, the fastest-growing part of the $5.7-billion state prison budget. Commenting on the new report of deficiencies, state Sen. Jackie Speier, who has scheduled hearings on the corrections health care system for next month, said, “It could be named the Keystone Docs. If it was a want ad, it would say something like, ‘Bad doctors apply here. No one turned away.’ ” The prison health care budget for this fiscal year is $879 million. Rising costs are a result of the growing and aging inmate population, as well as increased spending for prescription drugs, medical treatment and court-mandated services.