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Proposed Pay Increases Could Reduce Prison Malpractice Rates

The supervisor of California’s prison system recently recommended a raise in medical worker salaries, which if approved by a judge, could mean as much as a $24 million increase in hospital staff wages.

Inadequate health care has been a pressing issue for the California prison system. The proposed pay increase could potentially reduce the state’s high prison medical malpractice rates, which average one inmate death per week.

Thelton Henderson, U.S. District Judge, appointed Robert Sillen as overseer to improve a medical system Henderson said was “broken beyond repair.”

Wage Increase Prompted by Lawsuit

Sillen, who has been the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System executive director for thirteen years, recommended the wage increase in response to a lawsuit filed against the state by a prisoner advocacy group.

The lawsuit was settled long ago, but the state has not yet met the key settlement term, which is to improve the prison hospital system.

If the salary plan is implemented, wages would increase between five and 64 percent. Sillen believes this could attract employees, reduce the 45 percent hospital position vacancy rate, and help to retain experienced and qualified medical staff.

Improving Inmate Care

"These salary adjustments are long overdue as a first step to attracting and retaining health care professionals in the effort to turn the prisons around and improve quality of care for inmate patients," Sillen said.

Sillen also said the plan will actually save the state money in the long run as vacancies are filled, and they are relieved of their dependency on temporary staff who command higher hourly wages.  

“This is a system that has struggled for decades, and my administration is dedicated to transforming it by creating an accountable environment that meets constitutional standards for care,” he said.

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