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Health Care Suffers at Los Angeles Jails: Report

LA County Jail Lacks to Meet Inmates' Basic Health Needs – a Report. A newspaper on Sunday reported// on the deaths of at least 14 inmates since 1999 in the nation's largest county jail system came after treatment errors and other breakdowns in their medical care. The volume of inmates, coupled with a shortage of doctors and nurses, has resulted in a backlog of hundreds of inmates waiting to be examined.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that the LA jail system lacks enough doctors, nurses and other medical workers, resulting in long delays in treatment for conditions ranging from hernias to heart diseases. It was reported that the Inmates have waited weeks for exams they were supposed to receive within 24 hours of making a request - the newspaper said.

Jody Kent, a court-sanctioned monitor said inmates showed gaping wounds from infections, broken bones and bulging hernias. Kent, for three years, has been walking the county's cellblocks documenting complaints for the American Civil Liberties Union. "I basically saw grown men crying because they were in such pain," Kent said.

Sander Peck, chief physician in the jail system says: "I could have every doctor in the county of Los Angeles here, and it still wouldn't be enough. I don't know what 'enough' would be."

Among the deaths reported in the Times' investigation was that of Pamela Wimberley, 38, who awoke one morning with a headache and fever, and a nurse who examined her found her blood pressure was elevated. A doctor over the phone ordered blood and urine tests for Wimberley, who was diabetic, to determine if she was developing a respiratory infection.

Wimberley was given a pain reliever and sent back to her cell; the tests were never done and the doctor never followed up. She died a week later after developing bacterial pneumonia.

The county settled the case for $150,000 and the doctor was suspended for three days.

"The county incurs significant liability for continuing a system of care that clearly is not working," a consultant said in the report to LA County Board of Supervisors.

Spurred by those findings, officials began to bolster the ranks of doctors and nurses, but several hundred medical workers are still lacking.


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