Lockdowns, staffing issues to blame for NY inmates missing thousands of medical appointments
Jail officials have long struggled to move inmates, some with serious mental health issues, to medical appointments
By Reuven Blau
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — City lawmakers want to know why inmates miss thousands of medical appointments each month.
Inmates didn’t get to 12,105 scheduled doctor and nurse visits in September, according to a report by the city’s Board of Correction. That’s 25% of all the appointments set for that month, the latest publicly available.
Jail officials have long struggled to move inmates, some with serious mental health issues, to medical appointments.
Jail insiders blame frequent lockdowns for the missed appointments. In some cases, correction officers were not available to escort inmates to clinics.
“The Department has a responsibility to ensure that those in its custody are provided timely and quality healthcare,” City Councilman Keith Powers, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, said during a hearing on the issue last Thursday.
Powers, along with City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, have introduced legislation that would require correction brass to record each medical visit. The proposed legislation would also force jail supervisors to list why a medical visit was missed and share that data with the city’s Correctional Health Services.
“This bill will ensure that correctional health staff, not just corrections staff, are doing triage and making sure that medical appointments are kept,” Powers said.
He also pointed out that the number of complaints filed by inmates about poor medical care skyrocketed by 51% last year, from 1,450 in fiscal year 2016 to 2,193 in fiscal year 2017.
The city’s NYC Health + Hospitals Corp. took over inmate medical care in August 2015. Previously, Corizon, a privately run firm, handled treatment for inmates, but it was slammed by an independent oversight board for poor care tied to multiple inmate deaths.
City officials say the switch has led to better medical treatment.
“We have successfully leveraged the resources of the nation’s oldest and largest public hospital system to improve the health of patients under our care before, during, and after incarceration,” testified NYC H + H Corp. Senior VP Patricia Young.