Friday, November 14, 2008

Prison healthcare in disarray after Hurricane Ike

TDCJ officials yesterday updated the Legislature publicly for the first time (to my knowledge) on the status of health care services provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) after the prison hospital located on the island was closed because of Hurricane Ike. Reported Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman ("After Ike damaged Galveston hospital, prisoners shipped elsewhere in Texas," Nov. 14)

Brad Livingston, the prison system's executive director, said administrators at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have promised to reopen some of the prison hospital's 365 beds later this month, but a full reopening is indefinite. Currently, a limited number of inmates are going to the facility for clinic visits, not overnight stays.

"It creates a real challenge," Livingston said. "It goes without saying that security risks go up."

Instead of sending convicts to Galveston for treatment, prison officials for weeks have been housing the bulk of them in public hospitals at the University of Texas at Tyler, Huntsville Memorial Hospital and a hospital in Conroe, among others. ...

In other parts of Texas, convicts are being transported to local hospitals for treatment or they are being treated at prison infirmaries — normally reserved for minor care.

In addition to extra costs of treatment at local hospitals, officials said convict-patients also require around-the-clock security. "There will be additional costs. How much, we don't know at this point," said Dr. Lanette Linthicum, the prison system's medical director.

Livingston and UTMB officials, who on Wednesday got orders to lay off 3,800 UTMB employees as a result of an estimated $710 million in hurricane-related damage to the Galveston complex of hospitals and labs, said they also do not know the final cost of the alternate care.

"(UTMB) has promised us they will eventually return Hospital Galveston to pre-Ike conditions," Livingston said. "We're not thinking about moving the (prison) hospital out of Galveston."

Livingston told the committee the state currently has about 150 inmates in free-world hospitals - the largest number, 60 beds, at UT-Tyler, with another 20 inmates at Huntsville Memorial.

I wish we'd heard whether UTMB's telemedicine program is up and running and how they're providing specialty care with UTMB's Galveston facility decimated and a third of their staff laid off, but one suspects these problems aren't going away and the issue will be revisited as the Lege session approaches.


Anonymous said...

They have put TYC pending contracts on hold also.
This affects inmate medical for TYC youth.

Anonymous said...

Why are they not looking at transfering the prison Hospital service further inland? It doesnt really matter how much is spent fixing up Galveston if next year another big hurricane hits and they have to start all over again. Just because Galveston is an islnad, doesnt mean it's the most secure place to treat sick inmates.

Anonymous said...

You are so right SW.The powers that be were told that wasn't a good idea before they built the hospital down there. Prior to building the two texas City Facilities (That later was combined as one facility I believe) they were told that wasn't a good idea. They were built without regard to the comments.

This is a great opportunity to use some common sense and put the prison hospital inland. TDCJ is receiving the old Veteran's medical facility in Marlin, Texas but they are not trying to hurry anything along OR "killing" the TDCJ Hospital Galveston unit.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

I do agree that the prison hospital needs to be moved inland.

It is very sad what happened in Galveston, my home town.

FEMA could decide to not renew Galveston's ability to be under the National Flood Insurance Program, and if that veiled threat were to be inacted, Galveston as a town would simply be dead.

The businesses, and this includes UTMB, that are trying to get back up and running cannot get employees because there is largely no way for employees to live on the island. The residential housing and apartments and townhouses received much damage and repair of the damage, according to FEMA dictates and bureaucrats, is all in limbo now.

The seawall always worked well for Galveston, except for Ike. There was some kind of "surge" from the bay side of the island and rising water, not wind, did most of the damage and the older homes in the city protected by the seawall were ruined by the water. Also mold is a huge problem.

Looks like a DHS/FEMA victory over Galveston to me.

advisor said...

TDCJ already operates inland hospitals; one just north of Huntsville, and another in Lubbock at the Texas Tech Medical School. The problem ostensibly is the inability to obtain cheap physician labor at locations other than medical school hospitals which are grateful for the bodies uopon which their students can learn their trade. It's all a matter of money, of course. Don't get me wrong, there apparantly is supervision by qualified doctors at those hospitals, but it is basically the reduced costs at those institutions exchanged for the increased exposure and opportunity to "practice" for their students that molds those agreements. They exist because the State wants to save money. So it is with Galveston's John Sealy Hospital. The transportation and manpower costs for taking inmates from all over the state to John Sealy has to be astronomical. De-centralization of TDCJ, in all its aspects from medical care to intake and release is, in my opinion, the key to not only reducing costs in the system, but for making quality medical care available to the inmates. Having been there and experienced it, I have personally witnessed the horror stories you hear about poor medical care, or lack or delay thereof. Too many inmates suffer or die every year because of it. Those stories are real. Unfortunately, until the elctoate wakes up and realizes that being "tough on crime" is just a banner designed to get votes for some self-interested politicians, and demands those it elects start governing with sensibility and commpassion, stop the wasteful spending, and use common sense to address the corrections situation, nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Medical care is an after thought for TDCJ. It seems it never occured to the Legislature that prisoners with life sentences grow old and with age comes a much greater need for medical care that is not covered by MediCare.

Incarceration costs go far beyone the daily cost for housing and food. Why aren't older prisoners paroled? Why don't we see recidivism statistics for older parolees?

Did you hear anything about the prisons during the recent presidential campaign? The fact is that great care is taken to insure that prisoners and prison employees have no voice on the public stage. The entire prison system is meant to be as invisible as possible.

This blog is doing a great service to bring these issues to the public.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of medical care for prisoners. I think the prisoners got high quality medical care at Galveston because like about 3 or 4 3rd or 4th year residents see each patient, plus an intern plue a team of 4th year medical students. Then one or two faculty doctors check over every thing.

I venture to say we ordinary folk out in the world do not get that quality of medical care.

Also I just do not want anyone to forget that the University of Texas medical research institutions are involved in some very ugly research and development for bio weapons and vaccines to not only be used on our foreign enemies in a war situation but also on our soldiers and on our prisoners and on our own American citizens.

The evil pall is over the whole University of Texas system too.

You can search and read up about Dr. Garth Nicolson who was fired from his position at UT med in Houston and two or three of his colleagues were murdered.

"Mycoplasma fermentans (incognitus) has been tested on the Texas Department of Corrections prisoners in the late 1980s prior to the Gulf War. It was tested on death row inmates as well as other inmates in Huntsville, Texas. The guards then contracted it from the inmates, and the guards then gave it to their families and community. This mycoplasma vaccine testing was funded by the U.S. Army, and today there is an outbreak of 350 people in the Huntsville area with a strange disease resembling GWS."
"The Gulf Bio War
How a New AIDS-like Plague Threatens Our Armed Forces
by Alan R. Cantwell, Jr., M.D."

Anonymous said...

anon @ 7.30 ~ inmates get medical care from trainee medical staff, over seen by trained medical staff. My husband was at Hospital Galveston in laste 2006 for a hernia op. He had a relatively new procedure to correct the hernia, which you might consider better-than-average care, but he was made to get up and walk to the holding cell just an hour after coming round from the aneasthetic and was then put on a chain bus and had to sit on a long bus ride (it was a groin hernia). I dont think that is better-than-average care.

Add to that the fact that he'd been starved for almost 3 days while they waited to see if a doctor would be available to do the operation, and didnt want to let him eat "just in case". I dont think that is better-than-average care either.

But I take your point that it is probably better than those without insurance could expect to receive. Perhaps the Legislature should look at the possibility of recovering some of it's medical expences from those inmates who are still covered by their free-world insurance? I know some families keep paying the premiums on their incarcerated loved one so that they do not have to renegotiate cover once they leave TDCJ and so if the inmate is released and needs prompt medical attention they can get it.