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Review shows Vaughn inmates have long waits for medical treatment

James Morrison
Delaware Public Media

An independent review of the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center sick-call process shows nurses are understaffed at the prison, and inmates often make multiple trips to the waiting room before receiving treatment.  

The $25,000 independent medical assessment from the National Conference on Correctional Health Care shows medical treatment is being administered to the inmates, but the process is often inefficient.

Dr. Marc Richman is the Chief of the Bureau of Health Services for the Delaware Department of Correction. He says across all medical disciplines the prison is staffed at about 83% with the greatest shortage in nursing.

“Well I think that’s one of the things that we’ll be looking at in our healthcare efficiencies process workgroup, is looking at other ways to recruit, other ways to incentivize, other ways to keep people on staff and looking forward to some creative solutions,” said Richman.

The NRI report also found mandatory overtime resulting from understaffing leads to fatigue and decreased morale among prison staff. It recommends rotating staff during evenings or weekends to stay current with sick-call and reduce overtime.

Richman touts plans to expand telemedicine service as a potential means to address understaffing.

“We’re using telemedicine for individuals going through opiate withdrawal, and utilizing medication assisted withdrawal. So we have a doctor on one end of the computer and an inmate and the nurse on one end, and it is expediting service and, I think, improving care,” he said.

But the report points out connectivity at the prison is a chronic issue. It says the DOC’s electronic medical records system, or iCHRT, is slow and frequently loses data. The DOC is asking state lawmakers for $1.55 million to replace that system.

Additionally, the grievance process for healthcare at Vaughn is not clearly defined, and Richman notes until recently inmates were not informed on how to make requests for treatment at their orientation.

Former inmate, Steven Sipple, is currently suing the prison’s medical provider Connections alleging long waiting times allowed colorectal cancer to spread through his body before it was identified.

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