California prisons told to pay doctors

March 30, 2006 at 9:45 PM

SACRAMENTO, March 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge ruled Thursday that California's Bureau of Prisons must pay millions of dollars owed to doctors who treat inmates.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said prison officials have "their heads in the sand," The Los Angeles Times reported. Henderson recently ordered a federal receiver for the prison system.

The prisons have about $58 million in unpaid medical bills, which Henderson said must be paid within two months. Because of the unpaid bills, many doctors have stopped working for the prison system or simply stopped responding to calls from within prisons.

"Predictably, this stunning example of the state's bureaucratic inaction ... is now culminating in a crisis," Henderson said.

The state also announced its own investigation Thursday. Controller Steve Westly said he wants to know why health care is so poor when spending on it has doubled since 2,000.

"The taxpayers have nothing to show for the billions spent on prison healthcare," Westly said.

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