ROCKVIEW MEDICINE

by Julian Heicklen

I have been able to construct a recent history of Medical Services at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview in Centre County, PA. Two employees, a former employee, and another non-inmate connected with Medical Services at SCI Rockview have provided me with information. I cannot mention their names for they could be fired or otherwise harassed. I shall refer to them collectively as "Sore Throat."

Until a few years ago, SCI Rockview had excellent medical services for the inmates. Most patients were young male adults. In recent years the prison population has increased dramatically. The prison was designed to house 1200 inmates, but in 1996, it housed 2150 inmates. In addition prison sentences are longer, so that the prison population has aged. Older inmates with geriatric problems now are common.

The change in inmate population has placed a large financial burden on Medical Services. In 1993, a health maintenance organization (HMO) named EHG was hired for three years to curb costs. To do this, medical services were curtailed. A policy was established that the prison would not treat conditions existing prior to incarceration. The quality of medical care plummeted. When the contract with EHG expired, another HMO, Wexford Health, was hired to replace EHG. This HMO is even tighter with funds than the old HMO.

Dr. Thomas Baumgarten was the Medical Director when Wexford Health was hired. The quality of care declined so drastically that Dr. Baumgarten resigned in protest in March 1997. He and his family have left Pennsylvania. His replacement as Medical Director is Dr. Francis Everhart, who joined Medical Services at SCI Rockview in the fall of 1997.

According to "Sore Throat," the doctors are poorly qualified. Much of the medical treatment is administered by doctor's assistants rather than by doctors. The quality of care at SCI Rockview is inadequate. "Sore Throat" made the comment that "The inmates may be criminals, but that is no reason to treat them like animals." Below are the stories of some inmates.

One positive note is that inmate Earl Rutherford CJ­463 wrote that: "There is one honest-to-goodness doctor here at SCI Rockview, his name is Doctor Austin." He also wrote that another good person is Physician's Assistant Kate Lambert. She "works her butt off, and the sad part is she really & truly loves her work." She "cut my toes and she did a super job, especially having to work under these conditions."

Dr. Everhart was fired on the spot and escorted to the front gate of the prison compound on the morning of December 23, 1997. Acting Superintendent Meyers had received countless inmates' complaints. Now there are two new doctors, Dr. Liskow and Dr. Pereira. Since Dr. Everhart has left, the medical staff, especially the nurses, seem to be happy. Things have improved medically.

Larry Albury (Posted December 19, 1997)

Milton Brockington (Posted December 15, 1997; corrected February 7, 1998)

Jerome Harris (Posted January 8, 1998; updated February 7, 1998)

James H. Myers, Jr. (Posted January 14, 1998)

David Zielinski (Posted February 13, 1998)

John O. Maly (Posted April 26, 1998)

Hepatitis C (Posted June 27, 2000)