By DON THOMPSON
A doctor at California Medical Facility was paid more than $410,000 last year, while a registered nurse at High Desert State Prison made nearly $236,000 – more than twice the statewide average in both cases.
A pharmacist at Corcoran State Prison was paid more than $196,000, nearly double what is typical across the state.
Compensation for medical providers has soared in the prison system since a federal judge seized control of inmate health care in 2006 and appointed an overseer with the power to hire and set pay levels.
As the official begins to wind down his oversight, the medical hiring and salary increases have helped lead to an improvement in inmate care, but it has increased the bill for taxpayers too.
It has also led to criticism that the official – called a receiver – provided a “Cadillac” level of care for convicted felons. A state review found that only Texas pays its state prison doctors more that California.
“The problem that we had is that the receiver was not accountable to anybody,” said former state Sen. George Runner, a Republican who has frequently criticized the program.
“So the receiver could just do or choose to spend whatever amount of money he thought was necessary to solve his problem, and unfortunately now the state is stuck with that,” he said.
The receiver for medical care, J. Clark Kelso, said the state has been free to collectively bargain health care providers’ salaries since a court order increasing their wages expired three years ago.
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