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An investigation into Maricopa County's jail health care system shows serious medical record-keeping problems, patient care safety issues and could open taxpayers up to liability.
According to the Arizona Republic, Correctional Health Services treats inmates held in the jails, which are operated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Health-care workers and detention officers work together to provide medical care for inmates, but their policies and procedures don't always line up. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is suing for control of the system, now overseen by the Board of Supervisors.
The 56-page report is the public's first comprehensive look at th Maricopa County's jail health care system. It's an independent review by Georgia-based CorrectHealth. Consultants spent several days interviewing inmates and staff and reviewing policies in the massive system, which treats about 130,000 inmates yearly in six jails.
Among the problems revealed in the report:
National experts in correctional health-care administration say that when there is litigation, paperwork from the prisons goes to court and if that paperwork is not filed, or absent or is incomplete, then the county is in a weak position.
Since 1998, the county has paid $13 million in legal fees, settlements and jury verdicts to inmates and their families for injury and death claims against Correctional Health Services.
County health care officials say they are exploring ways to improve operations. Also, recommendations from the report will be rolled into a Correctional Health Services' quality improvement plan.