Health provider says Allegheny County jail conditions better

Company has been subject of criticism

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Officials with Corizon Health Inc. told members of the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board that the company has made improvements in recent weeks to its management of health services at the county jail.

"I can honestly say, in the last couple weeks, we haven't gotten any complaints or concerns from in the jail," said Bob Orrick, regional vice president for Corizon.

Corizon, a Tennessee-based firm, took over management of the infirmary at the Allegheny County Jail on Sept. 1. Since then, the company has been the subject of criticism for not delivering medications on time to some patients. Medical staff at the jail infirmary also have complained about working conditions, and last month voted to unionize under the United Steelworkers.

Mr. Orrick said Thursday that Corizon had responded to calls for improvements, saying that the company has brought in additional staff and that he meets with jail warden Orlando Harper each morning to discuss issues at the jail.

He said a new medication delivery machine, which can be loaded in advance to organize medications for dispersing, also will improve delivery of medications.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said the county is "glad to see the progress that has been made, and the focus that Corizon has been putting on addressing these issues." She said the county looks forward to continued improvements at the jail.

Some at the Jail Oversight Board meeting said Corizon still has work to do.

"We continue to receive complaints," said Brad Korinski, chief legal counsel for the county controller's office.

Chelsa Wagner, the county controller, announced last week that her office would audit the $11.5 million contract Corizon has with the county. The audit is still scheduled to be performed, Mr. Korinski said, calling staffing levels "the elephant in the room."

Barbara Finch, a nun and registered nurse who was fired from her job at the jail in January but said she expects to return to work next week, asked the oversight board to look more closely at whether the jail was adequately staffed.

"We have had a shortage since the inception of Corizon Sept. 1," she said.

Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, head of the Jail Oversight Board, said she met recently with Corizon officials. She plans to meet with them again next week. She told Sister Barbara to bring the issue to her attention if she believes staffing continues to be a problem.

Next month, Corizon officials said they plan to give a presentation to the Jail Oversight Board on their clinical initiatives for disease management at the jail.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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