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Bedford County Jail, Johnstown, Pennsylvania

January 6, 2009 AP
A prison health care provider and the family of a western Pennsylvania man who died in a prison have settled a lawsuit. John Margo claimed his son, 23-year-old James Margo, started to go through heroin withdrawal at the Bedford County Prison when he was jailed in June 2002. The suit claimed medical personnel did nothing to help him. He died July 5, 2002. A lawyer for PrimeCare Medical Inc. says terms of the settlement can't be released. PrimeCare has denied responsibility throughout the case. Margo had been in prison for a parole violation in a drug case.

Northhampton County Prison, Easton, Pennsylvania
January 2, 2006 The Morning Call
Because of a lack of medical treatment, Trent Apple claims his multiple sclerosis deteriorated so much he had trouble walking. Yahteek Miles says his broken wrists went untreated for nearly two months, causing permanent problems with his hands. And the family of Donald Weiss Jr. alleges he killed himself after mental health experts failed to provide adequate psychiatric care. Each of these individuals served time at a county prison where a private business provided medical services. And each of them has had a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on his behalf, alleging the business failed to provide sufficient medical care in an effort to save money. Across the nation, prison health care companies have come under increased scrutiny, with prison watchdogs questioning whether the profit motive has harmed the quality of prison health care. Prisons that have hired private medical companies generally have done so because of the promised financial savings for taxpayers. ''If they're doing it cheaper, it's usually because they're cutting something, and those cuts have consequences for the quality of care,'' said David Fathi, an attorney with the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Locally, PrimeCare Medical Inc., based in Harrisburg, provides services at four prisons - in Lehigh, Northampton, Berks and Monroe counties. Schuylkill County is considering hiring it. Inmates have filed dozens of suits against PrimeCare, which serves 22 county prisons in Pennsylvania. In Northampton County, at least 16 suits have been filed against the company since it started providing services there in 1999, the most against any local prison served by PrimeCare. Traditionally a litigious group, inmates often file handwritten suits on a variety of issues that end up being dismissed as frivolous. But in Northampton County, many of the suits against PrimeCare involve prisoners with private attorneys. And many of their cases have been given court approval to move forward. One of the more significant Northampton County cases involved a seriously ill inmate who reached a $150,000 settlement in 2003 with the county and PrimeCare. It alleged that PrimeCare failed to fill prescriptions and gave incorrect prescriptions and that the prison delayed access to medical care. PrimeCare has been an improvement over Wexford Health Sources Inc., which provided medical care at the Lehigh County Prison until 2004, Sweeney said. PrimeCare is better partly because it's more oriented toward county jails than Wexford, he said. Inmates have shorter stays in county jails than those in state prisons, so their medical needs are different. But the owner and president of PrimeCare, Carl A. Hoffman Jr., has a questionable medical record. In 1997, the Pennsylvania Board of Osteopathic Medicine disciplined him. It issued a formal reprimand and fined him $500. At the time, Hoffman owned Pennsylvania Institutional Health Services, the predecessor to PrimeCare, which was contracted to provide medical care at five state prisons.

September 7, 2005 The Express-Times
Three Northampton County Prison inmates have contracted antibiotic-resistant staph infections, and three others may have the disease, according to the prison's health care provider. All infected prisoners and those who may have the disease were segregated from the general prison population, and every prisoner was inspected to rule out additional cases, PrimeCare Medical spokesman Todd Haskins said Tuesday. PrimeCare of Harrisburg has the contract to provide medical care to the prison's 600 inmates. Haskins said the prisoners have methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a skin disease that results in slow-to-heal boils or sores. The bacteria can lead to serious wound infections, blood infections and pneumonia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PrimeCare adopted an MRSA prevention and treatment policy in June and put information about the disease in the pay envelopes of the prison employees. They received the information shortly before the disease was detected this week, Haskins said.