San Quentin Gets New E.R.

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 15, 2007

The smell of fresh paint lingers in the air at the new medical facility. The bright white-walled room is cordoned off into large spaces for patients.  On this day, they’re celebrating with a ribbon cutting… 37-year-old Inmate Jay Herman is lying on a gurney amidst the festivities.  He says it looks like a real hospital. 

“Now that I have diabetes and heart problems I worry every day. But now that I can come in here, I really don’t worry…”
Both inmates and workers say wait times are shorter now.  There’s new equipment, room for storing medical supplies, and more privacy. Contrast that to the old facility with chipping paint, where officers, patients and nurses gathered in a cramped 400-square foot area.  The new facility is quadruple that.

Tanya Church has worked at San Quentin for fifteen years and was recently named Director of Nursing.
She says the improvements have boosted morale: 

“People are actually taking more pride in the work that they do…”
Robert Sillen is the federal receiver charged by the court with overhauling medical care in state prisons.  He says San Quentin’s emergency facility was the worst in the state.  He says what’s been learned on the one-point-six million dollar project will be used at other prisons. 

“So we will have a template, we will have a model for how we go about this, that will save us time, save us money as we go around the state.” 

The receiving area—where new inmates are examined is a cramped and worn space. It is also on the list for renovations.