UNMH takes over inmate healthcare at MDC

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After a number of inmate deaths, officials announced UNM hospital would take over health services at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

They started the transition last Wednesday, and they’re already changing systems and figuring out what their biggest needs are going to be moving forward.

“Our focus during this past week has been to implement UNMH’s electronic medical health record, assess current processes, and create a sense of teamwork between healthcare providers and corrections personnel,” said UNMH Dr. Rebecca Fastle, with the MDC Healthcare Authority Board & associate chief Medical Officer of UNM Special Projects.

Baca says MDC is the largest county jail in New Mexico, housing an average of 1,500 inmates each day. Now, they’re turning to UNMH to provide inmate healthcare on and off site.

“It’s no secret that in the past, MDC has struggled to meet these needs. Those past struggles and the impact on our inmates serve as reminders of the importance of our continued dedication to inmate healthcare,” said Julie Morgas Baca, a Bernalillo County manager. 

Both MDC and UNMH say the first step is making sure they have enough healthcare professionals to treat inmates by filling in current gaps in care as soon as possible. 

“My role also means bringing in the medical school, nursing, public health, and our health professionals. Right now, we are talking about all of the good clinical care that we want to get settled in on, but I also see down the road we have to address the workforce issues,” said Dr. Doug Ziedonis, CEO of the UNM Health System & executive vice president of UNM 

A warden at MDC talked a lot about the changes they want to implement when it comes to intake, detox and monitoring inmates. The warden says this will ensure the sockets inmates are receiving the highest level of care possible. 

“This will include our new push to get all new security staff on more advanced medical responses and to equip high risk inmates with vital monitoring bracelets,” said MDC Warden Jason Jones. 

They also created a rapid response team made of paramedics and EMT’s that will be on site in the evenings and on weekends.  The goal is to get staffing levels up so they can be there 24/7

“This team is nimble and trained to recognize and treat emergency situations, assess patients, patrol high risk areas and basically put themselves whenever the team is needed,” said Fastle.