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AMA welcomes investigation into jail overcrowding

24 May 2012

AMA Victoria has welcomed news that the state’s Auditor-General will look into overcrowding in Victorian prisons. The AMA believes that the proposed audit, outlined in the Auditor-General’s plan for 2012-2013, will help to highlight ongoing healthcare challenges posed by the rising prison population.
AMA has long held concerns about the poor level of healthcare in the prison system and has called for more resources in order to bring standards into line with those of the general population.
AMA President Dr Stephen Parnis said that the AMA’s key concerns include the alarming rate of Hepatitis infection in the prison population as well as a clear lack of resources for mental healthcare.
‘It has been clear that for some time that prisoner health in Victoria’s prisons requires more attention’.
‘In 2011 the Ombudsman found that 41 per cent of prisoners are infected with Hepatitis C while only one per cent of the general population is infected. This is an alarming statistic’.
‘We’ve know for some times that a needle exchange program would go someway to help reduce transmission of blood borne viruses and limit the extremely high rate of Hepatitis C infection in Victoria’s prisons’ said Dr Parnis.
Evidence suggests that due to time constraints, inadequate resources and the number of prisoners entering the system; doctors are often required to perform assessments in significantly less time than is appropriate for good medical practice.
‘With a growing prison population doctors and health professionals are asked to care for more and more patients and they require the tools and resources to do so’.
‘It is widely acknowledged by those delivering mental health care to prisons that the resources being allocated for this purpose have not increase sufficiently to cater to rising prison population’.
‘Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are ten times more prevalent in the prison population than in the general population’.
“What we need to see is more mental health beds, more funding for doctors and nurses in our correctional facilities, and a needle exchange program. These measures can begin to narrow the healthcare gap between Victoria’s prisons and the general population.”
For further information please contact AMA media unit on 0437 450 506.

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