New inmate health provider for state plans to rehire most of current staff

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The firm set to take over as health care provider for the Indiana Department of Corrections plans to hire most of the 700 employees of the vendor it will replace.

Corizon Health, based in Brentwood Tennessee, filed notice with the state’s Department of Workforce Development on Monday that it would lay off its Indiana employees at the end of the month when its contract ends. Corizon employs 699 workers in 22 locations across the state, according to the filing.

After a regular bidding process for the services, IDOC recently chose Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Services for the health care contract. Corizon said that it was made aware of the decision by the Indiana Department of Corrections on Feb. 22.

Contacted on Wednesday by IBJ, a Wexford spokeswoman said that the firm historically has retained about 98 percent of the incumbent health care staff members when it takes over a contract from another vendor.

“Wexford plans on doing the same in Indiana, where we have already spoken with many of the current employees who work in the prison system,” said Wedelyn Pekich, director of marketing and communications for parent firm The Wexford Cos.

“Hiring qualified, experienced, Indiana-based personnel not only contributes to the state’s economy, but also supports Wexford’s goal of providing quality services and maintaining continuity of care for Indiana offender patients,” Pekich said.

Corizon’s three-year contract was worth nearly $300 million, according to the South Bend Tribune. Since Jan. 1, 2014, when the most recent three-year contract took effect, Corizon has provided not only basic health care for prisoners, but also mental health, vision, dental, pharmacy and rehabilitation services.

Wexford already had indicated to the IDOC that it would "meet [with] and accept applications from current Corizon employees to mitigate the impact to employees and to ensure a smooth transition," according to an official statement from the department on Tuesday.

Given the large number of positions that will need to be filled and the state’s desire for a quick and seamless transition, it’s likely that Wexford will hire many of the Corizon employees, according to IDOC spokesman Ike Randolph.

“The IDOC can’t guarantee each and every former Corizon employee will be hired. However, good employees certainly have the odds in their favor,” Randolph said on Tuesday.

Corizon, the largest correctional medical company in the country, was the subject of an investigative series by the Tribune last year titled “Profits over Prisoners?” It noted a spike in the number of inmate medical complaints, questions about oversight and allegations that profit often took priority over critical health services for inmates.

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