Inmate family speaks about healthcare problems - CBS 5 - KPHO

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Inmate family speaks about healthcare problems

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Some serious concerns have surfaced recently about the healthcare of Arizona's inmates.

Monday the company that the Arizona Department of Corrections contracted to care for inmates issued a statement about the claims.

Allegations surfaced nearly two weeks ago when the Arizona Department of Corrections said some of the inmates are not getting their medication, are being exposed to hepatitis C and said one even committed suicide. According to the DOC, it all happened under the watch of Wexford Health Sources.

Wexford Health Sources was contracted by the DOC in July to care for the inmates.

[Click here to read email from Wexford Health Sources (PDF)]

"I understand they are in there because they did something to get in there, but that's no reason to decline them healthcare," said Freddie Bowman.

Bowman said her son has been in the Florence Prison since 2005 and has had a recent incident where he did not get the treatment he needed.  

"He had little white blisters from the strep throat all in there and he couldn't eat," she said.

Bowman said it was days before her son got care and by then the doctor "diagnosed him with having a high fever and very sick," she said.

Another family member of an inmate, Ana Hebner, had a similar story.

"They gurneyed him to the health needs building, and did an EKG and told him there is nothing wrong with him. He is healthy," she recalled. Her son, Nicholas Estraderm, is an inmate at the Phoenix prison facility and was experiencing chest pains in late June. Prison staff said there was nothing physically wrong with Estraderm, but they admitted him to the psychological ward instead.

"He should not be in a mental ward. He should be in a medical ward right now," said Hebner.

Wexford answered to the claims Monday in a statement that read as follows:

"We have had this contract for less than three months. Unfortunately, it will take longer than that to reform and help a system that has been in disrepair for decades. The severity of these inadequacies were not communicated to us (or any of the bidders) during the procurement process. We are grateful to have won awards and served many prisons elsewhere in the country. The state brought us in to be an agent for change and improvement. We absolutely have the resources and experience to perform that function, if corrections allows us to do the job we were contracted to do. While some opposed this privatization we believe it can ultimately be a better path for all involved, including taxpayers. Any incident is one too many but if we are allowed to implement our reforms this system over time will see fewer incidents than in the past, and better care."

We tried to reach the DOC for comment Monday, but they said there would be no comment until Wexford answers the claims. That is expected to happen in October.

"I think they need to change the system," Bowman said. "It's broken, it needs to be fixed."

"I feel for those guys, not just my son, but all of those guys in there."

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