- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - East Baton Rouge city-parish officials are looking to spend nearly $100,000 to study the parish jail’s medical operations, after medical workers complained in August that they are dangerously understaffed, underfunded and overworked.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1QdqkPz) about 10 medical staff members begged the Metro Council for a lifeline during the council’s August meeting, saying they lack supplies as simple and basic as Neosporin and as critical as EKG machines to show if a patient is having a heart attack.

Prison physician Rani Whitfield said their top need is hiring more nurses, who are spread so thin that one or two often cover shifts meant to be filled by five.

An agenda item set to be introduced at a Metro Council meeting next week would give $95,000 to consulting firm Health Management Associates to analyze the prison’s medical operations. But the idea of spending the money on a consulting firm rather than giving it directly to the prison doesn’t sit well with Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle.

She and Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis said when the issue was raised in August that hiring an outside firm to study the problems was not an immediate-enough fix.



Marcelle said Thursday that the money for consultants could be better spent on raising salaries or on hiring more nurses. The jobs are not the most attractive of positions, with starting salaries for nurses ranging from $17 to $18 an hour and the highest-paid nurse still earning under $25 an hour.

“We’re spending $95,000 on a study when we know that part of the issue is to raise the salaries,” Marcelle said. “We don’t have to study that. That’s common knowledge at this point. The doctors know what kind of support staff they need.”

Marcelle said the city should rely on the doctors and nurses who work at the prison to tell them what issues need to be addressed, rather than on an outside consultant. She also voiced concerns that the city might be held liable if any lawsuits are ever filed over medical staffing problems in the city since those problems are now common knowledge.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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