In my last post I discussed the different types of facilities and what this means to the healthcare providers in a correctional facility. Now I want to dig a little deeper into the claims for a correctional facility. I am often asked “What is the primary claim type that pays in correctional healthcare?” And most people are surprised to find that it is the failure to diagnose cancer. I will bet that you are surprised too. Here is a specific example. I will spare you the gory details.
The inmate in this case was a middle aged male that had been incarcerated for multiple DUIs. For nine months the inmate submitted numerous sick call slips concerning the same issue. He was seen by a Physician Assistant each time and prescribed antibiotics. He continuously complained about pain and said that he had colon cancer. During all of this a nurse told him that he was submitting too many sick call requests and they were going to start ignoring him. He was finally seen by the physician and diagnosed with colon cancer. The inmate sued and alleged that due to the negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference of the county and the medical staff, his cancer went undiagnosed and untreated. He demanded both compensatory and punitive damages for his injuries and between the county and contractor serving the facility was awarded a $1.5MM judgment.
This example is an extreme case of negligence. The majority of healthcare workers in correctional provide high quality healthcare. Other claim types in correctional healthcare run the gamut including overdose, failure to properly treat withdrawal, suicide, and dental issues that are misdiagnosed. Most claims in correctional are frivolous pro se cases that get closed with low payment amounts so it is very important to have a good attorney and carrier that understand these types of claims.
What predominately causes healthcare claims in correctional? Most of the time it comes down to communication issues. For example, the night nurse picks up all of the sick call slips at midnight on Wednesday and the part-time physician does not come back in until Friday. The nurse makes a judgment based on a piece of paper and invokes a protocol (the wrong one). There are a myriad of issues that can happen at a correctional facility that could lead to a claim.
Why is it important for us as a society to provide quality healthcare to inmates? To prevent medical malpractice claims and lower the probability of recidivism. We will discuss this in our next blog post on correctional medical next month.