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Health News Florida

Fl Corrections Dept Targets Problems with Inmate Health Care

Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews is threatening to stop payments to a Missouri-based company that won a five-year, $1.2 billion contract to provide health care to the majority of the state's prisoners, accusing Corizon of failing to provide adequate treatment.

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Crews sent a letter to Corizon CEO Woodrow Meyers on Friday saying that the company has failed to follow through after audits revealed shortcomings in multiple areas, including medical care, nursing and administration.

"All too often, we are finding that these corrective action plans are not being carried out and that the level of care continues to fall below the contractually required standard," Crews wrote. "As of this date, many of the most critical expectations including complete and full staffing, responding to DOC concerns and reducing the number of grievance(s) are often not being met."

Crews said he has had concerns about the contract since the privatization effort was launched in September 2013.

"When we met in person on December 18, 2013, I expressed concern about issues that appeared to be developing during the first two months of our partnership. At that time, we specifically discussed patient care issues, utilization management, and communication. All three of these areas continue to be cause for concern," he wrote Friday.

The secretary threatened to withhold payments at any institution that fails to meet 80 percent of auditing standards and keep the hold in place until applicable standards for care are met. Crews also warned that he would remove prisons from Corizon's contract if the institutions fail consecutive audits or have "exceptionally high levels of non-compliance."

Corizon started providing medical care for inmates in North and Central Florida last year after a long-running legal dispute over a decision by state lawmakers in 2011 to approve prison health privatization in budget fine print, known as "proviso" language. Wexford Health Sources is being paid $240 million over five years to provide health services to nine prisons in South Florida.

Both companies have come under fire for deficient care to prisoners in Florida and other states. Disability Rights Florida sued Crews and Wexford Health Systems earlier this month, alleging that torture and abuse of prisoners had been ignored for years.

Jonathan Plotnick, an inmate at Lake Correctional Institution, recently sued Crews and Corizon because health care workers at the prison refused to allow Plotnick to see a surgeon about a hernia operation even though they were aware that extreme pain prevented him from functioning normally. During a hearing in federal court earlier this month, Corizon officials agreed to allow Plotnick to consult with a surgeon, and he has since had the procedure. Plotnick's lawyer Randall Berg said he knows of 10 other inmates who were also refused the surgery.

The struggle over the privatized health care is the latest woe for the embattled prisons agency, which houses more than 100,000 inmates. State and federal officials are investigating inmate deaths and corruption at a number of Florida prisons, including Franklin Correctional Institution, where inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo was gassed to death in 2010.

Crews has been on a crusade to purge the department of corrupt and abusive guards since The Miami Herald reported earlier this year about mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey, who died at Dade Correctional Institution after guards allegedly forced him to shower in scalding hot water as punishment two years ago.

In the past two months, Crews has fired 45 guards for a variety of reasons, including for having a role in the deaths or beatings of inmates.

Four investigators sued the department earlier this year after Gov. Rick Scott's inspector general refused to grant them whistleblower protection. The investigators were concerned about retaliation after exposing Jordan-Aparo's death. The investigators accused Scott's chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel of ignoring complaints about the inmate's gassing.

And the department is grappling with a growing gang population, often aided by rogue guards. Two former Taylor Correctional Institution sergeants are awaiting trial after being accused earlier this year of ordering an inmate to be killed to protect the guards' role as kingpins of an institution-wide gang operation.

 

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