Corizon’s failures: Mounting evidence shows lousy care at Allegheny County jail
December 26, 2014 12:00 AM
According to an audit by county Controller Chelsa Wagner, Corizon has failed, among other things, to provide required clinical care and directions for follow-up care when inmates leave the jail.
By the Editorial Board
It’s been a year since Allegheny County put its medical provider for the jail on notice that the honeymoon in their new business relationship was over. It’s clear now that the county’s marriage to Corizon Health Inc. is failing, and it’s the inmates who are suffering the consequences.
The county hired Corizon in September 2013 to replace the ineffective nonprofit that had been providing inmate health care. Under its two-year deal, Corizon was supposed to update jail records, operate more efficiently and improve the quality of care.
That third element — the most important one — has been Corizon’s biggest challenge, and it’s gone unmet for too long.
According to an audit by county Controller Chelsa Wagner, Corizon has failed, among other things, to provide required clinical care and directions for follow-up care when inmates leave the jail and to adequately maintain medical records. The American Civil Liberties Union, too, said it has received complaints from inmates, jail health care staff and outside providers.
In addition, a report by the Post-Gazette earlier this month showed that death rates at the jail remain above national norms for similar facilities; six inmates died while in custody this year, giving the jail a mortality rate of 1 in 400, double the national average of 1 per 800 inmates.
Corizon came under criticism a year ago, too, for failing to get medication to inmates on time or follow a strict dosing schedule.
Although a Corizon spokeswoman said the company has made improvements — she cited nursing staffing levels above the contract requirements, enhanced services in the infirmary and other changes — it doesn’t seem to be holding up its end of the deal with the county.
The ACLU made a sound suggestion for moving forward. Legal director Witold “Vic” Walczak said the county should hire an outside monitor to keep track of Corizon and report on its performance to the public.
That’s a responsible step, but if improvements don't follow quickly it could be time for the county and Corizon to get a divorce.
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