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Corrections Dept. gets bad report about health care at Corcoran Prison (updated)

Independent investigators found an array of problems that they say threaten the health and safety of inmates at Corcoran State Prison.
Independent investigators found an array of problems that they say threaten the health and safety of inmates at Corcoran State Prison.
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As California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation deals with an ongoing hunger strike and having to move more then 2,500 inmates this week from two prisons plagued by Valley Fever, the department received another bit of bad news Monday: Independent court investigators have found medical care at Corcoran State Prison to be sorely lacking.

In a report filed in Federal Court, three independent investigators found an array of problems that they say threaten the health and safety of inmates at the Central Valley prison:

“Clinical supervision of providers and oversight of medical care at Corcoran is grossly inadequate and threatens the safety of patients.”

Among the findings:

--Medical staff were observed repeatedly failing to wash their hands before treating patients. 

--Medical supplies and equipment were stored in non-sanitary conditions. 

--Medical leadership failed to conduct oversight and review of clinicians. 

The investigation of the prison was jointly agreed to by the state and attorneys for the inmates. A federal receiver has been in charge of improvements to prison medical care since 2006, after a court ruled that the state was providing inadequate care,

“We’re reading the report and taking necessary steps to correct deficiencies identified by the experts," said Joyce Hayhoe, spokesperson for the federal receiver. "There’s still more work to be done.”

Of particular concern to the investigators was the high number of bacterial infections inmates contract while in the prison’s licensed acute care hospital, caused from unsanitary intravenous lines, which can lead to sepsis and potentially death.

“There are very serious concerns over medical neglect at Corcoran,” said Charles Carbone, an attorney who represents inmates at the prison.  He said that’s just one problem among many that haven’t gotten any better in the decade he’s been visiting the prison.

“The amount of time out of your cell is extremely limited for high security prisoners at Corcoran," Carbone said.  "There’s a very acrimonious climate between the prison’s staff and the prisoners.”

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the report.

The report comes as staff members from the federal medical receiver in charge of improvements to prison health care prepare to visit Corcoran on Tuesday to check on hunger strikers there.

Corcoran has one of the state’s four Security Housing Units that are the focus of the prisoner protest.

Although inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison launched the hunger strike, Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal receiver, said Monday that twice as many inmates are refusing food at Corcoran.