Utah prison health care system has ‘systemic deficiencies’: audit

The Utah prison health care system has “inadequate” services for inmates, according to an audit from the Office of the Legislative General released this week. 

The audit revealed the Clinical Services Bureau, the administration in charge of healthcare services for 5,000 inmates in the state, has “systemic deficiencies that negatively impacted patient outcomes,” after investigators reviewed 76 cases for 47 inmates in the prison system.

The review was requested by the Utah state Legislative Audit Subcommittee to evaluate the “quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of healthcare services administered in Utah’s prison system” to determine if there has been neglect of prison patients. 

The findings were presented to the state government on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

The report found that the bureau had not appropriately overseen and monitored patients and followed up with appointments. It also found that medical staff failed to monitor those infected with COVID-19, and often failed to meet guidelines that require daily checkups.

“The lack of follow-up and patient monitoring became especially concerning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed — as was the case in most healthcare facilities — the prison’s medical system,” auditors wrote.

An investigation from Fox13 found that inmates in the state’s prison system were five times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the average Utah citizen.

Utah State Prison, in Draper, which has recorded the most inmate deaths from the coronavirus at 16, struggled to care for COVID-19 patients. Families had called for an independent investigation of health care coverage in the prison system.

Auditors issued several recommendations for the Clinical Services Bureau, including brushing up on industry standards, ensuring staff more rigorously monitor patients and increasing transparency for procedures, among other items.

Brian Nielson, the executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, told Fox13 that he would address the recommendations

“We are generally supportive of their findings,” he said.“We are committed to providing quality medical care to each person in our custody. Our team has already begun to address many of these areas of concern, and we have plans in place to find resolutions to these issues in the coming months.”

The Hill has reached out to the state Department of Corrections for comment.