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Prisons, healthcare providers respond to malpractice allegations

In our previous post, we covered the growing criticism of the Massachusetts Department of Correction for providing low-cost care to inmates which has spawned multiple medical malpractice lawsuits and unexpected costs to taxpayers.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said that the department provided prisoners with "constitutionally adequate medical care."

Many critics of the Massachusetts prison health care system say that the increase in medical malpractice issues are attributable to medical inflation and a privatization wave that left 40 percent of the nation's inmate medical in the hands of contractors such as UMass Correctional Health.

UMass Correctional Health is a nonprofit arm of UMass Medical School that currently works under a five-year contract signed in 2007 to provide healthcare to prisons, the Sun Chronicle reports. The University of Massachusetts Medical School has handled all or a portion of the medical care in each of the state's 18-prisons since 1999.

"Given more than 11 years of services provided and the high-risk population and complex medical conditions we manage, we believe that UMass Correctional Health is providing care at the community standard," a spokesman said.

Massachusetts' leading advocacy group for prisoners, Prisoners Legal Services, currently receives approximately 500 complaints each year related to prison health care and physician negligence.

"Like so much of public health, it's pay now or pay later - and you'll pay more later," said the group's Health Care Project co-chair.

"Some might say prisoners don't deserve better because they're being punished," he said. "But the punishment is loss of liberty - not loss of a limb, of eyesight, or of bowel function."

Source: The Sun Chronicle, "An unhealthy policy," Tom Puleo, Lisa Chedekel, 3/27/11

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