SALT LAKE CITY – Problems with the move to a new medical record system have left thousands of inmates at the Utah state prison without medication, administrators told families on Sunday.
“It corrupted a lot of data that came over,” explains Steve Turley, the director of clinical services for the Utah Department of Corrections. “Certain drugs did not migrate. Some drugs quadrupled.”
Turley and UDC director Brian Nielson spoke to families via Zoom on Sunday. In an anecdote describing the magnitude of the problem, Turley said the software “showed most of the inmates that they were pregnant.”
“Of course that’s not the case,” he clarified.
The software migration started on August 1. That was about two weeks after the inmates moved out of the old prison in Draper and moved to the new prison in west Salt Lake City.
“The transition hasn’t gone as well as we’d hoped,” Nielson said.
“It didn’t go as planned, and we take responsibility for that,” Turley said.
“We are working to resolve this crisis,” he added.
The briefing came after a Thursday story from FOX 13 News. In addition to medication delays, families have complained of prison staff not treating their ailments, a lack of phones and time outdoors in the new prison, and even mosquitoes from adjacent wetlands biting the inmates when they go outside.
READ: Families raise serious concerns about six weeks in new $1 billion state prison
The prison staff only dealt with the medication issues on Sunday and told families that their incarcerated loved ones had to submit written requests if they wanted to be seen by a doctor. Families have complained that their inmates do this.
“So I believe they have not given us any answers,” said Shelly Munster, whose husband had recently arrived at the new prison. “I believe they continued” [Zoom] and said as little as they could.”
Munster said her husband went off medication for about two weeks for high blood pressure and mental health needs, but the problems went beyond what was prescribed.
“He got an infection in his leg,” Munster said. “It took them 11 days from the day he was seen.”
Wendy Parmley, the director of medical and mental health policy for Utah Prisoner Advocate Network, said the missing prescriptions could affect prison security.
“A person now hears voices and has been placed in max (security) because, for example, he hasn’t received his mental health medicine and may still not have received it,” she said.
Parmley said administrators shouldn’t have tried to make a software change during the transition to a new prison — at least not without redundant records.
“But there was really a breakdown in the lead and the rollout,” Parmley said.
Nielson said on Sunday that staff expected the migration of the records to work. Workers printed many documents and manually entered information, but that was not efficient, he added.
Parmley wants the department to set up a command center to coordinate the writing of new prescriptions and deliver the drugs. Next, she wants the department to use contracts she already has with outside doctors and other health professionals to expand prison staffing.
“You’re definitely going to save dollars by spending a little bit of money right now to make up for it,” she said.
Turley said the temporary pharmacy staff will arrive Monday. What were 15,000 outstanding prescriptions has already been reduced to 4,000, he said.