UAPD is watching the situation closely and will meet and confer with the State over the issue. In preparation, we ask doctors to use the following survey to share your thoughts and concerns with us.
Press Release (Oakland) — On Tuesday the State’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report that gave Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) a failing grade for the medical care it provides to inmates at the Soledad facility. Fifteen years after a lawsuit in which a federal judge ruled that the health care given in California prisons constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” the Inspector General found that SVSP still demonstrates “a profound inability to provide patients with adequate access to care.”
Much of the problem comes from an on-going shortage of physicians in California prisons. According to the Inspector General’s report: “Of critical importance was SVSP’s shortage of providers and extreme difficulty with recruitment and retention of qualified physicians. This inadequate staffing at SVSP led to an institutional backlog of over 400 patients at the time of the onsite inspection, and contributed to the inadequate rating.”
Currently, there are four physicians working onsite at Salinas Valley State Prison, treating over 3800 prisoners. The physician shortage is a pervasive problem affecting most of the 34 state adult prisons in California.
On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) spokesperson Joyce Hayhoe “agreed that the prison has a serious, ongoing doctor shortage and said officials are trying to hire doctors.” However, the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD), which is now negotiating with the State on behalf of prison doctors, believes not enough is being done. UAPD asserts that recruitment and retention is still a serious problem that is affecting patient care.
“The State can’t hire more doctors because doctors can work elsewhere with better compensation and working conditions,” reported Dr. Stuart A. Bussey, president of UAPD. “At the bargaining table we’ve made multiple proposals that would help with prison doctor recruitment, but the State has said no to every one of them.”
“These are not easy patients,” according to Dr. Fernando Tuvera, a physician at SVSP. “I am moved from unit to unit, treating people with injuries, Hepatitis C, end-stage liver disease, COPD, diabetes, and many other conditions. We work long hours during the day, and the four of us have to divide up all the after-hours coverage too. That means one week per month I’m working all day and all night. We need more doctors here.”
The Union has also filed grievances at SVSP over the effects of inadequate staffing on the few remaining doctors, and proposed remedies that would help alleviate the strain. Those grievances were denied by CCHCS.
UAPD has met several times since the beginning of October with CDCR and CCHCS on the implementation of the Electronic Health Record System (EHRS) in that Department. So far the project has been piloted at the following facilities: Folsom State Prison, Folsom Women’s Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, California Institution for Women, and in some administrative sites. UAPD members have expressed concerns about many issues related to the EHRS: the mandatory use of a lap-top (meant to be taken home); the increasing burden of performing call and increasing work hours; inadequate compensation; large numbers of incorrect medication orders for patients; as well as other issues. A number of UAPD members have taken part in the Meet and Confer meetings to date: Dr. Gabriel Borges (FSP), Dr. Ronald Lewis (ISP), Dr. Vitalicia Romero (CCIW), Dr. G. Bedford (CIW), and Dr. J. Chapman (CIW).
UAPD will be passing proposals to CCHCS and CDCR that are meant to address the concerns of UAPD members as well as the quality of care being provided to inmates. UAPD will continue to keep you updated on developments in the meet and confer process and the roll-out of the EHRS pilot system at institutions across the state.
UAPD has challenged management practices at Mule Creep State Prison. Specifically, UAPD is opposing MCSP’s directive that Bargaining Unit 16 employees sign-in and sign-out of work. MCSP already has an electronic key card ID system that makes a manual log-in unnecessary. Initially, MCSP management indicated that BU 16 employees should not only use a key card and sign-in/out of the facility manually, but also email supervisors upon arrival/departure to work and check-in face to face with supervisors. MCSP dropped the directives to email supervisors and have face to face check-ins after UAPD opposition, but still maintains a sign-in/out log. UAPD has elevated this grievance to the third level and will continue to fight MCSP management on this issue.
Some Physicians working within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have received a memorandum from Receiver Clark Kelso regarding the reduced inmate population and the possibility of layoffs within California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS).
The layoffs mentioned in the memorandum are not official. Neither the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) nor UAPD have been noticed by the Receiver about the Phase II layoffs of Physicians. CalHR has contacted the Receiver’s staff to advise them that their office has not yet begun the State Restriction of Appointments (SROA) process, nor have they proposed a layoff procedure to CalHR. If and when that material arrives at the CalHR for review, that process can easily take 120 days. UAPD will update members when more information is known.