by Robert Durkee
After numerous allegations of inadequate medical care, pending prisoner lawsuits and nearly $1 million in state imposed fines, Virginia Department of Corrections decided to sever at least two of its contractual ties with Correctional Medical Services. "Starting Feb. lst  the state will take over inmate medical treatment from Correctional Medical Services at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge prisons", corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said.
In combination with dozens of prisoner lawsuits, CMS has been fined $900,000 for noncompliance with state contract by prison officials. According to a report by the state auditor of public accounts, CMS did not have a dentist at Wallens Ridge for more than three months or a psychiatrist at the Red Onion for more than two months.
According to The Associated Press, the auditor concluded it might be cheaper for CMS to absorb penalties than comply with the contract. Asked what role that report played in the decision to end the relationship with CMS, Traylor said only that the department decided to make a change because the current contract expired January 31, 2001.
CMS, a St. Louisbased company, is the nation's largest provider of prisoner health care to jails and prisons, CMS contracts physicians and health care workers who serve more than 260,000 prisoners at roughly 315 prisons in 27 states. This includes the two supermax prisons, Red Onion and Wallens Ridge, Sussex I and Sussex II state prisons, Greenville Correctional Center, and Flavanna Correctional Center for women.
CMS spokesman Ken Fields said the contract termination at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge _ will affect a medical staff of about 60 fulltime positions _ was an administrative decision. "We are very proud of the accomplishments that our staff has made at Wallens Ridge and Red onion," he said, noting that the company's healthcare programs at the two prisons achieved perfect scores in audits by the American Correctional Association.
For a comprehensive look at the problems that have plagued CMS see the Dec. 2000 issue of PLN.
Sources: The Associated Press, Detroit News
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