Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk
At the March 8 meeting of the Bradford County Prison Board, Warden Don Stewart introduced Derek Hughes (above, right) and Kendle Jemiola (left) of PrimeCare Medical Services (PCMS) and reported that the transition of health services at the Bradford County Correctional Facility to the Harrisburg-based company has gone smoothly. Previously, their were a limited number of medical professionals at the facility, and inmates had to be transported to the hospital for most needs.
“Nursing hours were increased dramatically,” Stewart related. “We’re hoping this is going to reduce our hospital visits.” Two full time and three part time nurses at the jail now provide 16 hours of coverage seven days per week. Previously, the schedules of two nurses sometimes overlapped and, if one needed a day off, there was no nurse on duty. Corrections officers often had to dispense medication in their absence.
“Our corrections officers are now out of the medication business and able to concentrate on their own duties,” said Stewart
Hughes, PCMS junior vice president, Jemiola, assistant regional manager, and other PCMS associates have been working with prison staff for about a month. In addition to newly hired RN Theresa Hennesey, the facility also has a psychiatrist for the first time.
“Dr. (Joseph) Cama now has the support team that he needs to do his job,” said Commissioner Ed Bustin. Cama has served the prison for many years as a county employee. He and the other members of the revamped medical team will now be paid through PCMS, which has a contract with the county.
Hughes indicated that the transition has gone well, in part, because “the county and the warden had a lot of great systems in place.”
“It’s been nice to see them take it and run with it,” Stewart remarked. “The inmates now have access to a better level of care.”
Earlier in the day, the commissioners approved an addendum to their agreement with PCMS to add mental health services to the contract at a cost of $32,406.
Commissioner Doug McLinko said that the changes are part of the ongoing process of bringing the correctional facility up to national standards as part of recommendations offered by state Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel.
In other prison news, Sheriff CJ Walters questioned the increase in PREA (prison rape elimination act) claims, noting that their were three incidents in the Warden’s Report this month. One female inmate and two male prisoners accused officers of sexually harassing them.
“It’s the new tool they’ve learned to use against the officers,” Stewart explained. “It’s an issue nationwide.”
While the two incidents involving male inmates and personnel are still under investigation, video footage quickly dispelled the charges made by the female prisoner, who was warned by state police that she could be charged for making false accusations.
Prison population in Bradford County currently stands at 174, with six inmates temporarily housed at state facilities at no additional cost to the county. There are 77 people on supervised bail, with 17 new placements last month.