Prisons set sights on healthier populations
The Corrections Department is trying to remedy shortcomings in its treatment of prisoners' health, after a national report raised concerns.
The ombudsman's report into prison healthcare, released in February last year, highlighted mental healthcare as a major concern in the country's prisons, including Invercargill and Milton.
It highlighted faults, including the Corrections Department's policy regarding transgender prisoners and dental services.
Corrections Department offender health director Bronwyn Donaldson said several initiatives to improve health services had been implemented as a result of the report and Corrections' health services business plan, which was developed in 2008.
Some were brought in before the report, and some after, Ms Donaldson said.
A different process for recording health complaints in prisons came as a direct result of the report. Complaints about health services used to be part of the general complaints system. They were now part of the patient management system to protect prisoners' confidential health information, she said.
The ombudsman's investigation suggested serious faults in the dental service provided to prisoners, which needed to be addressed urgently.
Ms Donaldson said several prisoners had poor oral health, often because of substance abuse, poor nutrition and smoking.
Corrections has improved its monitoring of waiting lists as part of general improvements and, following the report, its policy was checked with the Ministry of Health, which showed no issues, Ms Donaldson said.
Other improvements , some as a result of the report, were the development of a mental health screening tool, a national clinical governance committee, the development and implementation of the health services manual and the development of health indicators to establish the specific health needs of the prison population.
It also measured the effectiveness of its health service interventions.
A more flexible system was being introduced for transgender prisoners and the Cornerstone Accreditation, which measures clinical systems and processes against standards established by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, was also introduced.
Corrections and the Ministry of Health had previously considered several models for the delivery of primary healthcare to prisoners, she said.
"The Ministry of Health is currently working with DHBs [district health boards] and PHOs [primary health organisations] to create stronger alliances, and the Department will leverage off this work as it proceeds.
"In addition, the Ministry of Health is completing work on the performance expectations of PHOs, and the Corrections will consider how we might align our performance measurement to this framework when it is completed," Ms Donaldson said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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