In a series of cases widely covered by the media, one facility’s atrocious medical care services resulted in exorbitant fiscal and physical cost—the former picked up by New Mexico taxpayers via New Mexico Medicaid, the latter suffered by the inmates. Specifically, we are referring to a group of inmates housed at one correctional facility between the spring of 2016 and the summer of 2018, who contracted spinal diskitis, spinal osteomyelitis and/or spinal sepsis.
Osteomyelitis is a relatively rare infection (the incidence, at highest estimate in the medical literature, stands at 24.4 per 100,000). The literature also clearly shows that it is easily diagnosed and treated. To appreciate the comparative magnitude of this in context, Collins & Collins, P.C. alone currently represents over a dozen inmates and former inmates who contracted the infection at the facility in question during the time period specified resulting in months of inmate hospitalizations and the aforementioned strain on New Mexico Medicaid.
Systemic Failures/Abuses Related to NMCD Inmate Medical Care
In case after case, what might have been easily diagnosed and treated inexpensively if even minimal standards of medical care had been followed, resulted in catastrophic outcomes. Most often the infections were allowed to progress to such point as the patient was emergently transported from prison for hospitalization. On a couple of occasions, the inmate was discharged from prison with an untreated emergent infection and
was hospitalized soon thereafter.
In all of these cases, what might have been treated by the simple administration of a course of antibiotics ended up in extensive hospitalizations for each of the inmates which spanned weeks and in some cases, months. Likewise, what might have cost hundreds of dollars in care rendered by the private prison medical provider has costs New Mexico Medicaid and New Mexico taxpayers hundreds upon hundreds of thousands, if not millions in medical costs to date. The future costs to New Mexico taxpayers will run into the millions as will be seen below. This does not even begin to address the unnecessary legal costs that taxpayers have expended for NMCD for its part in perpetuating the callous and wanton neglect of inmate health.
Permanent Harm to Inmates Leads to Permanent Financial Burden to Taxpayers
Spinal diskitis, osteomyelitis and sepsis are extremely harmful to the body leaving permanent and severe physical disability. Severe and permanent disability leads to permanent and extensive medical treatment and costs. Almost all inmates are eventually released from prison meaning that costs is again passed on to New Mexico Medicaid.
It is indisputable that former inmates face extraordinary challenges obtaining gainful employment. Imagine the difficulty a disabled former inmate faces. Suffice it to say that these inmates will become reliant on public assistance for their survival and the survival of their families. Again, New Mexico taxpayers bear the expense. And, these expenses persist for the life of the former inmate.
Simply put, private prison medical services provider’s underlying motive and over-riding interest is simple: profit margins. Quarterly financial statements and returns on investment to shareholders, not public health and long-term cost effectiveness, are the driving force behind what transpires in our prisons. They rake in millions, New Mexico taxpayers pick up the tab.