For many ER physicians and jail or prison officials, the term “access to care” is a tricky one. Often physicians must ask themselves if quality of care will be compromised by returning inmates to jail.

When considering whether sufficient care has been given and if such care will be negated by a prisoner’s return to the corrections facility, health care professionals must take into account the jail’s medical facility, staff, and equipment as well as the severity of the illness.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards (NCCHC) has set forth a standard to ensure inmates have access to care for any and all serious medical, dental, and mental health needs while confined to a jail or prison. These 2008 standards are listed as J-A-01 and P-A-01 for jails and prisons respectively.

During the intake process, inmates should be informed about how to access health services orally and in writing in an easily understood manner. Translators or assistants should be provided when literacy or language barriers are present. The use of a language telephone line is commonly used for inmates that may have a language barrier. This information is available in the inmate handbook

All inmates are to have the opportunity to seek medical care. It is illegal and against regulations to deny health care, make health care difficult to attain, or to punish or otherwise harass inmates who seek health care for their serious medical needs. This is where general dentistry Batavia IL services come in handy. Inmates on restricted movement are required to have adequate health care with medical staff examinations.

Jails can help facilitate access to medical care by allowing inmates to request medical services in writing on a daily basis. If possible, only medical staff should handle these requests. Medical services are required to be provided on an acceptable time table comparable to the majority of healthcare facilities. Jails have the option to charge a co-payment for medical care; however inmates are not to be denied access to care due to inability to pay. When an inmate’s health condition can not be treated at a jail, they are to be cared for in an environment that can meet their specific health needs. Corrections facilities should have a good working relationship and a written agreement with community hospitals or emergency rooms to provide this level of care when needed.

In Estelle vs. Gamble 1976, the courts found that inmates rely solely on prison officials to treat their medical needs. Failure to do so on the part of the officials may result in physical “torture or a lingering death”. Less serious violations of this statute may result in pain and suffering notwithstanding any penological purpose.

It may seem that the enumerable variables concerning access to care make any decision daunting. If your inmate is seriously ill, have him treated immediately. Remember this simple rule of thumb, and you will almost always be in compliance with the standard.