Week of October 29, 2003

Dead Again
Dead wronged: No one understands the importance of correctional healthcare better than the people who dedicate their professional lives to that cause. They choose to go into prisons and jails each day to serve the medical and mental-health needs of hundreds of thousands of inmates. In Missouri, that dedication has led to numerous improvements in inmate healthcare.

It is a fact that, on the average, the healthcare that patients receive in prison is better than what many Americans receive outside prison. For example: 1) A review of treatment provided to HIV patients in Missouri prisons demonstrates that the care they received compared favorably with care provided by the Johns Hopkins HIV clinic; 2) Three comprehensive studies performed in Missouri prisons by the University of Missouri document that inmate healthcare services are responsible and well executed; 3) In 2001, the Missouri Hospital Association recognized Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (CMS) for the professional and quality services it provides within the correctional system as well as in the community.

We hoped that the Riverfront Times would have included in Geri L. Dreiling's October 15 cover story "Dying to Get Out" some of the foregoing information, as well as other information on our beneficial services that was provided to the RFT. Even though CMS employees and contracted professionals have had millions of beneficial patient interactions, the story focused on unproven allegations about the care provided to a small number of inmate patients over the past five years.

We also want RFT readers to know that, while patients and their families are free to criticize the care and the providers, we as providers do not have that same liberty. We will not disclose patient medical records without the consent of patients or their representatives. For that reason, we were not able to discuss important facts that rebut or disprove the allegations. Neither the patients nor their relatives waived confidentiality, so we were not allowed to comment on the patients' conditions or medical treatment.

We provided detailed responses to issues raised about CMS's work in other states. But that information was not included in the story. The RFT quoted the negative comments and accusations made by harsh critics of CMS, yet did not include our responses to those issues. The RFT also failed to report that some time ago, CMS offered to meet with the ACLU to discuss inmate healthcare. To date, the ACLU has declined to discuss or meet with us regarding those issues.

Again, we understand the interest readers may have in this story. Correctional healthcare is a cause that means very much to all of us in this specialized field. We believe if the RFT story had included an equal amount of information about the many improvements and services CMS has contributed, it would have been more balanced factually and would have helped readers more fully understand the many complex and compelling aspects to this important issue.
Dr. Louis C. Tripoli, senior vice president of medical affairs
Correctional Medical Services, Inc.

Dead on: I read "Dying to Get Out" with disgust at our prison system. I am a nurse at a urology clinic that has the state contract to care for all Missouri inmates. Weekly, we see between two and ten inmates from combined facilities. I know that too often our physicians recommend treatment, tests or follow-up care for inmates that the inmates never receive. Our calls to facilities to check on inmate follow-up care meet with disorganization and lack of interest from medical corrections staff.

I find it appalling that inmates are falling through the cracks in our institutions. They deserve humane medical treatment and the opportunity to be healthy, even while incarcerated. My personal belief is that treatment is postponed because of cost.
Name withheld by request

Balls Out
Fat, so? I was quite disappointed to begin reading Ben Westhoff's "Cut the Castration Scene" [October 15], only to be met with a myriad of misinterpretation of facts. Alas, they are too numerous to mention and I will not torture the good readers of this publication by rooting through them.

You may be think I am an advocate of sexual violence and the portrayal of debauchery. On the contrary -- I find such tomfoolery to be not only disturbing but also corruptive to budding minds. However, I also find grease-palmed journalism in the same category. If your writers are not going to check the facts then I'm afraid the RFT may end up being lumped into the tabloid category.

What, pray tell, does being overweight have to do with being distraught over the molestation of one's child, Ben Westhoff?
Mary Burns
Wright City

Back to McRee Town
Our own Hell's Kitchen: As a resident of the neighborhood surrounding the Botanical Garden, I read the "The Greening of McRee Town" [Shelley Smithson, October 8] with more than a bit of interest. This little corner of south St. Louis is a great place to live. Lots of character and great amenities nearby -- the Central West End at half the price. McRee Town, however, is a literal Hell's Kitchen right here in St. Louis that threatens to pollute all of the areas that share its border.

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