California prison doctors barred from treating patients because they were suspected of malpractice received nearly $9 million in pay for doing no work or only menial chores like sorting the mail, state records show.
At least 30 physicians and mental health professionals collected an estimated $8.7 million since 2006 as they went through a lengthy appeals process to determine whether they should be fired or reinstated, the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/vOJLlY ) reported Monday. The newspaper cited records from a court-ordered receiver now in charge of the state prison system.
Doctors who were alleged by colleagues to have committed negligence or misconduct — in some cases involving patient deaths — received their full six-figure salaries, even though they were not allowed to treat prisoners. Some did menial work.
“Obviously the system is broken,” said Dr. Radu Mischiu, a psychiatrist who allegedly failed to keep notes on patient interviews. “You put people on the sidelines, but then you have to pay them millions. It’s ridiculous.”
Mischiu, who currently is on disability leave with a bad back, has not treated an inmate since February 2006. At one point, he sorted inmate mail at Solano state prison in Vacaville while earning his full salary of $268,524 a year. He also reviewed medical charts to make sure other doctors have made proper notes — something he himself allegedly had failed to do.
Mischiu eventually was fired, but the State Personnel Board, which reviews disciplinary cases involving civil servants, ordered him rehired with back pay two years ago.
Regarding his poor record-keeping, the board noted Mischiu’s huge caseload. He and another psychiatrist had been responsible for up to 1,600 mentally ill inmates at times.
Mischiu said prison officials still refused to allow him near patients.
A federal court placed the state’s prison health care system in receivership in 2005 after ruling that it was so poor as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The receiver oversees more than 7,000 doctors, nurses and other medical staff positions.
The payment records provided to the Times were partial because of poor accounting and the figure could be higher, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the receiver, California Correctional Health Care Services.
“The whole reason this place is in receivership is that it was so badly broken, and that includes the record-keeping,” Kincaid said.
Currently, only two doctors barred from patients are being paid.
Via The Mercury News