Physicians with spotty records hired to treat Ga. inmates

By The Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 14, 2014 at 4:41 p.m.



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ATLANTA (AP) — Several physicians who have been cited for misconduct by medical boards in Georgia and other states are now working in Georgia state prisons.

Information gained through an open records request shows 11 out of 50 physicians working in Georgia state prisons were hired to treat inmates despite prior citations for various forms of misconduct, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/133k4GW).

The newspaper reported that four physicians were hired despite failing to diagnose or treat serious medical conditions that led to patient deaths.

Georgia Correctional Health Care, a branch of Georgia Regents University, hires and supervises many physicians working in state prisons. The organization's director, Dr. Billy Nichols, said the prison doctors are hired after lengthy interview processes and their work is regularly monitored. It would be wrong to assume that the state settles for whatever physicians it can get to work in state prison facilities, Nichols said.

"The proof is in the quality of outcomes we have," Nichols said. "We haven't had a lot of bad outcomes around here."

Some medical professionals who work in correctional heath care say certain blemishes on doctors' records are easier to accept than others.

"These folks, they should be able to earn a living," said Dr. Michael Puerini, an Oregon prison doctor who was once president of the Society of Correctional Physicians. "But if you don't know how to practice medicine, prison is not the place for you."

Some have expressed skepticism toward the level of care being provided to state prison inmates, and have concerns with the medical board ordering physicians who have faced disciplinary action to work in specific settings, — like prisons, VA hospitals and free clinics.

Senior Attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, Sarah Geraghty, called those stipulations disgraceful, and said they imply treatment from doctors with questionable records is acceptable to certain classes of people.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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