Inmate Healthcare At Risk In Georgia Prisons

Last year in 2020, the Georgia Department of Corrections decided that they were going to privatize the healthcare in Ga Prisons, by outsourcing the medical care to an independent vendor. It is no secret that privatization of healthcare can often times be the worst decision made, particularly when it comes to inmate healthcare. Healthcare in corrections on a nationwide level is already in crisis. Many of the facilities in Georgia have to deal with low staffing ratios, chronic healthcare needs of the patients, and low pay. Until the decision was made to privatize, healthcare in Georgia facilities was handled by Augusta Georgia Correctional Health Care, (GCHC), (formerly Augusta State Medical Prison (ASMP). This relationship was formed under former Governor Zell Miller over 23 years ago. After multiple lawsuits commenced against Augusta citing medical malpractice, the Department of Corrections has decided to pull the contract and bring in an external vendor. This may prove to be one of the worst decisions ever made for Georgia. Historically, incarcerated people have always been given substandard healthcare, many of the seminal cases surrounding healthcare in a prison setting was commenced by inmates who argued that they were being treated unfairly or neglected by the healthcare providers, because of their status as inmates. In 2018, Ga. Department of Corrections settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $925,000 related to the wrongful death of detainee Bonnie Rocheleau ( Bliss, K 2018). Ms. Rocheleau suffered with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and was not properly treated by the medical director, Dr. Yvon Nazaire. Although Nazaire had already lost his medical license in New York for malpractice and negligence claims, he was nonetheless hired as the Medical Director for Pulaski State Prison by GCHC. This shows a deliberate indifference to how inmates receive their healthcare in Ga. This was a blatant sign of misconduct on the part of the GCHC. With GCHC now removed, this new vendor has to perform on the highest level allowed under the law. As a correctional healthcare provider, I have witnessed the complete neglect of a patient after a vendor has come in and changed the way operations are done. This often leads to tortious actions against the patient and the healthcare provider. It is imperative that the vendors carefully survey the system they are acquiring to ensure that they are able to provide quality healthcare needs to the patient. We will have to wait and watch how this pans out for Georgia, but as an expert in this field, I advise you not to hold your breath if you think the inmates are better hands with an external vendor, anymore than they were with the State provider.

Bliss, K (2018) Georgia Pays More Than $3 Million to Settle Prison Medical Negligence Suits. accessed April 12, 2021

Sharpe, Joshua (2020) Effort to privatize Ga. prison health care draws fear from experts, advocates accessed April 12, 2021