Illinois prison agency rescinds nurse layoffs to still talk

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2017
The Illinois Department of Corrections has withdrawn its plan to lay off 124 nurses while continuing to negotiate with the state employees’ union.  Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Thursday the department had informed the Illinois Nurses Association that it would not remove the nurses June 15. She says prison officials are available to meet any time but the union is unavailable until May 8.  Union spokesman Chris Martin says the Corrections Department decision is welcome news. He encouraged support for legislation to halt privatizing prison jobs that was sent to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. …


Lawmakers seek to block privatization of prison nurse jobs
Source: Tony Reid, Herald & Review, April 11, 2017
The prognosis for a group of unionized prison nursing jobs across Central Illinois hangs in the balance as last-ditch efforts are made to save them.  The correctional facility nurses – seven in Decatur, 12 in Vandalia and four in Lincoln – are among 124 nurses statewide who have been told by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration their state jobs will end in June 15. … Among those supporting the effort to save the jobs is state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who is among the sponsors of new legislation that would prevent the nurses from being laid off and their work from being outsourced.  All that is needed is for Rauner to sign the bill, a hope that appears to be on life support given the governor’s oft-stated anti-union stance. Nicole Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, has previously said that privatizing the nursing jobs would save taxpayers $8 million a year. …

Senate OKs prohibition on privatizing prison nurses jobs
Source: Associated Press, March 29, 2017

The Illinois Senate is telling Gov. Bruce Rauner it doesn’t want prison nurse jobs filled by private contractors. Plainview Republican Sen. Sam McCann’s measure won approval Wednesday 40-15. It would prohibit the Department of Corrections from eliminating jobs of any state employees who provide prison health care services. Republican Rauner’s administration announced last week it intended to dismiss 124 union nurses and privatize their positions this summer. …

Two state senators file bill to stop Rauner’s plan to privatize jobs of 124 prison nurses
Source: Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, March 28, 2017

Two state senators are co-sponsoring legislation they say would stop Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration from outsourcing additional medical and mental health service jobs from state prisons. This past week, 124 nurses employed at 10 state prisons learned that they were being laid off and their jobs privatized. In Southern Illinois, that includes 13 nurses employed at Menard Correctional Center, and 13 at Vienna Correctional Center. … That number includes 150 nurses who are members of the Illinois Nurses Association, the majority of whom received layoff notices. It would protect an additional 172 medical technicians and mental health professionals who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. …

Menard prison nurse hopes to keep job after layoff notice
Source:Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, March 26, 2017

… Chadderton was notified Tuesday that her job would expire on June 15. The union she is a member of, the Illinois Nurses Association, forwarded her and 123 other nurses employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections a letter from Edward Jackson, IDOC’s chief labor relations administrator, outlining the state’s intent to do away with those positions. Jackson’s letter indicated the positions would be privatized. … According to IDOC spokeswoman Nicole Wilson, the nursing positions being eliminated would be subcontracted to Wexford Health Services, the private medical vendor that has provided medical services in Illinois prisons for nearly 25 years. … Wilson said the move is expected to save the state $8 million. … As to the nurses being laid off, Wilson said that Wexford is prepared to hire most of those who will be impacted. … Chadderton said she has no desire to work for Wexford. She expressed concerns about the way she perceives the company to treat its employees.

… Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said he doesn’t understand Rauner’s endgame. He joined a chorus of people expressing concerns that this layoff of nurses could set into motion a plan by the governor to further privatize corrections or other state agencies. Rauner has not said he has plans to do that — he’s indicated the opposite — and such a move would be nearly impossible for the governor to undertake on his own in a state where Democrats control the General Assembly. But that hasn’t stopped the conjecturing. … Johnson agreed that the move is alarming, both on its surface and because it could portend future privatization efforts that go even further. She said the layoff notice was confusing to many of the 124 nurses who received them this past week. That’s because, she said, it was only a month ago that a high-level state employee sent an email to state workers seemingly intended to quell any rumors that Rauner had plans to privatize large segments of state government operations and services. … Wexford first contracted with the state in 1992. The company was awarded a 10-year, $1.36 billion contract in 2011. But Wexford is not without controversy. In 2012, the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group, accused the state of renewing its contract with Wexford without conducting an audit of the company’s performance. … Johnson was referencing a 405-page report compiled by court-approved experts and filed in 2015 as part of a federal court case regarding inmates’ medical treatment. The report criticized the competency of nurses and physicians employed by the for-profit Wexford, problems with staffing and record keeping, and outlined allegations of medical neglect that in some cases led to preventable deaths because inmates were refused adequate treatment. …

124 Illinois prison nurses get layoff notices
Source: John O’Connor, Associated Press, March 21, 2017
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has told 124 prison nurses that their jobs are being privatized, a move their union blasted Tuesday as retaliation for its rejection of a contract offer last year.  Nurses stationed at 12 state prisons will be dismissed on June 15, two days after the contract nurses are hired, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press that the prison system’s labor chief sent this week to the Illinois Nurses Association. Alice Johnson, the association’s executive director, noted the notice came just days after the union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with state regulators, claiming the first-term Republican governor has reneged on his obligation to negotiate contract terms in good faith. She said members overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement last spring and Rauner is retaliating. … She said the move is particularly troublesome because of a nationwide shortage of nurses that forces Illinois prison nurses to sometimes work 80-hour weeks while vacant positions go unfilled.

… Nicole Wilson, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said privatizing the posts would save $8 million a year and “streamline the delivery of medical services.” Medical care vendor Wexford Health Sources provides the rest of the prison network’s nurses. … Rauner, a private equity investor serving in public office for the first time, campaigned on cutting off union power in a solidly Democratic state and has clashed repeatedly with organized labor. He is engaged in a long court and public relations battle with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whose 38,000 members have authorized a strike, if necessary, for the first time in its 40-year history. … Legislation requiring a cost comparison between public and contracted nurses be prepared before any contract employees are hired won General Assembly approval last spring. But Rauner used amendatory veto power to change the measure. It died when lawmakers took no further action.

Illinois prison contractor paid $3.1 million to resolve complaints over five years
Source: Michael Sandler, Modern Healthcare, May 20, 2015

The Pittsburgh-based private company hired to provide healthcare to Illinois’ adult inmates has had claims brought against it in the past. A new report issued late Tuesday by court-approved researchers provides a detailed look at shoddy medical care in Illinois prisons, outlining delays in treatment, desultory follow-up care and poor record-keeping. The filing claims a host of issues could have cut short the lives of some inmates. The Illinois Department of Corrections disputed the 405-page report, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago in a class-action suit against the agency…… In 2005, IDOC terminated a contract with Wexford, which had held the business since 1992. In 2005, when the company was in negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union demanded a 43% pay increase in the first year of the proposed contract.

Expert panel criticizes medical care at Illinois prisons
Source: Associated Press, May 20, 2015

A scathing new report by court-approved researchers paints a bleak picture of medical care in Illinois prisons, describing extended treatment delays, haphazard follow-up care, chaotic record keeping and a litany of other problems. The 405-page report, based on prison visits over several months and access to thousands of prison records, suggests that shoddy care may have shortened the lives of some convicts, including a former Chicago street gang member who died of lung cancer. Promptly disputed by the Illinois Department of Corrections, the report was filed late Tuesday night in U.S. District Court in Chicago in a class-action lawsuit against the agency that oversees 49,000 inmates. The department said in a statement that the report “uses a broad brush to paint an incomplete picture of the comprehensive medical system in place.” The report closely scrutinized the cases of 63 prisoners who became ill and died in recent years. There were, it said, “significant lapses” in care in 60 percent of those cases, calling that rate “unacceptably high.”….

Final Report of the Court Appointed Expert Lippert v. Godinez
Source: Ron Shansky, Karen Saylor, Larry Hewitt, Karl Meyer, Medical Investigation Team, December 2014

Prison doctor to inmate: ‘That’s bad. You should have someone look at that.’
Source: Rob Wildeboer, WBEZ, March 26, 2013

llinois has a $1.4 billion contract with Wexford Health Sources, a private company that provides health care for inmates. But inmates say they’re not getting the care that taxpayers are paying for….According to the prison watchdog group the John Howard Association no one seems to be providing meaningful oversight of prison health care. In fact, last year, the John Howard Association reported that the state entered into a more than $1.3 billion contract with a company called Wexford Health Sources without auditing the company’s previous performance in the state….

Unasked Questions, Unintended Consequences
Source: John Howard Association of Illinois, October 2012

From the summary:
This special report is based on JHA’s analysis of healthcare in 12 diverse correctional facilities, which together embody the state of healthcare in the Illinois prison system. Our findings include the following:
– There is insufficient external oversight of prison healthcare services, especially services provided by the private vendor, Wexford Health Sources, who in 2011 negotiated a 10-year contract to provide healthcare services to all 27 IDOC facilities at the cost of $1.36 billion to the state.
– JHA found deficient staffing levels that can lead to staff burn out and prevent inmates from timely accessing medical care.
– JHA found that while elderly inmates represent the fasting growing segment of prisoners, it is unclear how Illinois will pay for the housing, treatment, and medical care of this population.
– The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is in the process of implementing opt-out HIV testing at reception and classification centers and is piloting an electronic medical records program that promises to enhance data-sharing between facilities and improve quality of care.

COPLEY NEWS SERVICEState picks up Wexford contract

Less than five months after state government canceled a contract with Wexford Health Sources to provide health care for most prison inmates, the company is resuming those duties with a new contract worth a potential $547 million. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which handles health care procurement for most state agencies, awarded the contract late Wednesday. The agreement will pay Pittsburgh-based Wexford $97.6 million in the first year and $103.9 million in the second year, said HFS spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. …..