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Five years later, Virginia prison still not meeting terms of court-ordered settlement over shoddy medical care

Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 12:14 PM EDT
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A new court-appointed monitor’s first review of operations at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women suggests the state isn’t close to meeting the terms of a five-year-old legal settlement over poor health care and a spate of inmate deaths.

The report, filed earlier this year in a federal court case that’s closing in on a decade of litigation, says medical care remains spotty and questions the state’s practice of isolating mentally ill inmates for 23 hours or more a day.

But the monitor, Dr. Homer Venters, writes that one of his biggest concerns is that the Department of Corrections still relies on paper medical records to provide and track health care for prisoners.

He writes that it is likely impossible for the state to meet its court-ordered benchmarks for improving medical care without upgrading to the now-industry-standard technology, citing records that show nurses don’t always provide inmates medication they’re prescribed and inmates arrive at medical appointments to learn staff don’t have their charts.

Venters quotes a woman the department logged as refusing care: “They did not have my medical chart and do not know why I’m here. It may be an ongoing problem, they can’t treat me without my chart.”

The Department of Corrections has been in discussions about upgrading from paper to electronic medical records for years, but the effort has been bogged down by failed procurement efforts that in one case saw a vendor back out at the last minute over a dispute over the state’s security standards. A second procurement attempt advanced in 2018 but was apparently aborted. The department issued what is at least its third request for proposals earlier this year.

“We’re in the RFP process,” said corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney in an email. “Vendors are presenting demos.” The statement was the only comment the department provided for this article.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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