CORRECTION: Apparently I (and every reporter and senator in the room) misheard Dr. Raimer; the UTMB PR director contacted me to say that Raimer said 15%, not 50%, of doctor positions are vacant. I apologize for the error.
I've been listening on and off this morning online to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee's hearing on medical care at TDCJ, which has mostly been a laboriously detailed questioning of officials involved with the inmate described in this Houston Chronicle article ("Injured inmate spent two days on cell floor," Jan. 24). (NOTE: The hearing is over; archived video will be available here soon.)
In addition, said Raimer 18% of registered nurses slots and 18% of mid-level practitioners positions are currently unfilled. Raimer said the Lege increased salaries for nurses and pharmacists, therapeutic staff, and as of Jan. 1 increased pay for physicians, who make between $140K to $160K per year.
Sen. Robert Deuell, who is a medical doctor, was particularly concerned that L.V.N.s were making "medical assessments" of seriously ill or injured people, or at least in the case described in the Chronicle. UTMB claimed the LVN may have called a physicians assistant working at another unit, but Deuell walked through the documentation to show that such a conversation was never recorded in the file.
The state is still suffering, Raimer said, from the 2003 budget cuts, and also higher cost related to the increase in the number of older and elderly inmates. Every year 1.5% more people come into TDCJ, he said, but 14% more every year turn 55 years old, after which they have 5-6 times more medical visits than younger offenders.
Related MSM coverage: