In a lengthy press release, the Pittsburgh-based private health care provider took issue with the department’s criticism of its performance:
Wexford Health Sources disagrees with the assessment of the Correctional Medical Authority regarding the treatment provided to a small number of inmates at the South Florida Reception Center. More significantly, we take strong exception to the idea that this limited number of cases—involving patients who were already experiencing significant psychiatric challenges before they ever entered our care—should serve as the basis for termination of our contract with the State of Florida.
Privacy regulations limit how much Wexford Health can say to refute the CMA allegations without risking disclosure of the patients’ identities. However, there was nothing in the treatment of these inmates that should, or could, justify contract termination.
It is extremely disappointing that the Department of Corrections acted without consulting our psychiatric providers regarding the affected inmates. Had the DOC done so, it would have learned why our clinical personnel, relying on their professional judgment, pursued the chosen courses of treatment. Instead, the Department relied on the opinions of CMA’s non-psychiatric auditors, who—without being licensed psychiatrists—told the Department how they thought the patients should have been treated. These allegations led to the declaration of an emergency situation.
Wexford Health President CEO Dan Conn summed up the situation: “Wexford Health’s culture is one of transparency. We have always been open and direct with the Department about our performance. In fact, the Department has consistently complemented us on our performance and partnership.
“Our responsiveness; and our ownership of issues as they arise; have been exemplary. Again, the Department has acknowledged this. This could not be more apparent, since the Department recently asked us to extend our current contract for another year.
“But in this case, we were not even given the opportunity to respond to the Department’s allegations. Upon hearing them, Wexford Health’s psychiatric providers immediately responded to the situation and evaluated the patients’ cases. These psychiatric experts’ findings are considerably different than the ones given by CMA’s non-psychiatric personnel.”
The unfortunate reality is that prison inmates represent a particularly challenging patient population. This is especially so in the area of mental health. Wexford Health treats every patient under our care with respect and dignity, with the full hope that we can help restore their health. Isolated cases, involving inmates with long histories of mental problems, would not appear to be a sound basis for termination of an entire contract.
Out of tremendous concern for the safety and well-being of the inmates in our care, Wexford Health acted immediately to assess and evaluate the patients involved in the CMA report. We can now state that for each of the affected patients, psychiatric medications were discontinued after a clinical evaluation by a psychiatric provider; and the patients were observed in an inpatient unit after their medications were discontinued.
The patients were not at risk; and no life-threatening situations existed. The patients were being adequately and regularly monitored, supervised, and treated by psychiatric providers at clinically appropriate intervals. Please note that Wexford Health is not financially responsible for the cost of psychiatric medications and therefore has no financial incentive to withhold or discontinue them.
It is equally disappointing that the Department chose to terminate our contract rather than to exercise its option to offer Wexford Health an opportunity to cure the alleged issues (as allowed by the contract). In the past, if there was an issue, the Department and Wexford Health always sat down and worked it out. However, for some reason, in this situation the Department suddenly decided to terminate us with no warning.
The motivations that led to the Department’s decision are questionable—especially since within the past several weeks, the DOC and Wexford Health were looking for ways to fund Wexford Health’s ongoing contract.
Wexford Health has been an excellent partner for the Department since 2013, as reflected in the dramatic improvements in audit reports from the time we took over responsibility for providing services, until our current fourth year of service. This week’s actions by the Department have been as surprising as they are unnecessary. It is regrettable that we were not given a chance to provide the Department with crucial information that would clearly have refuted the CMA allegations.
Updated 1:55 p.m. — In response to Wexford, Ashley Cook, press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections, released this statement:
“Secretary Julie Jones sent a letter to Wexford Health Sources, notifying it that the Department is exercising its contractual authority to terminate the contract with Wexford at will.
“Secretary Jones is absolutely outraged at Wexford’s lack of performance and delivery of services as detailed in the Correctional Medical Authority’s notification issued April 18, 2017. The Department has been committed to meaningful health care reforms and takes the issues detailed in the CMA’s notification extremely seriously.
“Following this medical emergency notification, the Department immediately deployed a Mental Health Ombudsman and Behavioral Health Risk Management Team to review all inmate mental health needs handled by Wexford at South Florida Reception Center.
“In regards to an extension of their contract, this was prior to the CMA’s emergency notification and under the pretense that their contracted services were improving after previously being placed on direct notice by the Department. Since their performance did not improve, the Department terminated the contract.
“Please also note, mental health services has been an ongoing issue with Wexford, and the Secretary has had extensive discussions regarding their performance. These discussions were never complimentary of their mental health services.”