We reported last week about several key vacancies at the top level of the administration of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz who is running for a second term in November.
One of the vacancies we reported on in last week's column was the position of chief medical officer (CMO) for the county jail and the correctional facility where the inmate population can top 1,400 at any one time.
Given the often deadly history at the facilities that spawned legal action, the federal Justice Dept. is continuing to regularly monitor both institutions, and the latest review was conducted last November, the seventh in the current cycle. It was conducted by Dr. Ronald Shansky of Chicago, a specialist in reviewing correctional facilities.
We have now obtained a copy of the report which was filed last month with county officials. As we stated in our story last week, there has been no correctional CMO for more than a year and the county executive's office blames the lack of a candidate on the poor pay ($150,000) and the clientele.
We thought we should give our readers the findings of the latest review, conducted only at the Holding Center because of wintry conditions at the Alden Correctional Facility prevented the monitor from getting there. But in the review that was conducted at the Holding Center, the assessment raises continuing concerns about the lack of a CMO for the facilities. We thought you should see his actual remarks from the report he filed to draw your own conclusions about the continuing vacancy.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Shansky wrote the following:
"We cannot emphasize enough the need to fill the Medical Director position and use some flexibility and/or creativity in developing a compensation package that is satisfactory. We also want to emphasize the importance of filling the Infection Control/Quality Improvement Coordinator position as well as the Assistant Director of Nursing. Although only two areas that moved from partial compliance to substantial compliance, we were encouraged that in the absence of clinical leadership, greater deterioration had not occurred…."
As we reported last week, the county comptroller has urged the county executive to be creative in increasing the pay package to help land a CMO which, in the view of the federal monitor is sorely needed. So far, that has not happened. The findings by the federal monitor also concluded that the 12-month vacuum in the CMO position "creates potential insecurity for the advanced level clinicians as well as lack of oversight of significant clinical decision making."
It seems clear that county leaders from top down must devote more resources to filling the CMO position before another serious health-related problem surfaces among the swelling inmate population. The alarm bell has clearly been sounded. We'll keep you posted.