Otay

Otay Mesa detainees say shift of health services to private contractor complicates care

After spending the first part of the pandemic in the public spotlight for a large COVID-19 outbreak at Otay Mesa Detention Center, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has contracted out medical care at the facility to the private prison company that owns and operates it.



a close up of a door: Detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in south San Diego wait in one of the secure areas of the medical section. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)


© Provided by San Diego Union Tribune
Detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in south San Diego wait in one of the secure areas of the medical section. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Detainees interviewed by the San Diego Union-Tribune say the medical care, which had already been criticized by them and their advocates, has grown even worse than it was under ICE.

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Detainees complained of missed and late medications, multiple-day waits for medical attention and a lack of transfer of records that left staff in the dark about what treatment individual detainees were supposed to be receiving. It has also meant that those who had been approved for specialty care, such as oncology and orthopedics, would have to begin the lengthy process anew.

“The first couple of days, it was chaos,” said Guillermo Alvarez Mendonza, a detainee with diabetes, hypertension and chronic back pain. “If you were getting your blood sugar checked two or three times a day, it was midnight before they came for the first blood-sugar check.”

Both CoreCivic and ICE denied the detainees’ allegations.

“Our clinic is staffed with licensed, credentialed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals who contractually meet the highest standards of care,” said Amanda Gilchrist, spokeswoman for CoreCivic. “CoreCivic also maintains several accreditations from nationally recognized industry leaders such as the American Correctional Association, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which ensures we meet the highest standards for health care delivery.”

She said

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