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Grand Jury Urges Beefing Up Youth Facilities’ Medical Staff

Times Staff Writer

Despite recent improvements in medical care for children housed in six county facilities, the Orange County Grand Jury on Monday said there are still not enough qualified doctors and nurses to handle an ever increasing caseload.

The 1985-86 grand jury recommended hiring four full-time nurses, a part-time dentist and dental assistant and part-time dietary and pharmaceutical consultants for Juvenile Hall, four other detention facilities and Orangewood, an emergency shelter for abused and abandoned children.

Jurors also faulted the county for treating children on week nights with contract physicians who are on call for adult jail inmates. They recommended using only pediatricians or family practitioners for night and weekend on-call services.

Children’s “basic needs are being met,” Beverly Sinclair, chairman of the grand jury’s human services subcommittee, said Monday. “But we would like to augment the whole program--staffing, development of policy and procedures, educational programs. And we would like to see a review of the medical program on a yearly basis.”

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Jurors also urged the county Health Care Agency, which oversees juvenile health services, to improve facilities and seek accreditation from appropriate medical authorities.

The most critical area of need, according to Sinclair, is for written policies and procedures for everything from drug dispensing and storage to handling mental health emergencies to defining specific nursing duties.

These, Sinclair said, can be handled within existing budgetary constraints. But she said it was unrealistic of Health Care Agency officials to expect the two staff doctors to find time between patients to write and revise guidelines.

The cost for hiring additional staff was estimated at $176,000 annually, not including employee benefits. Jurors also recommended that the county spend an estimated $21,000 for a second, fully equipped dental office to speed treatment of patients at Juvenile Hall and $2,000 for a small computer to track and provide easy access to medical records.

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Dr. Gerald A. Wagner, program manager for Child Health Services, said Monday that he had not received a copy of the grand jury’s written report. But he said that he and his staff “agreed with the majority of their findings” presented in a meeting some time ago.

“We have proceeded to review and implement some of their recommendations,” Wagner said.

In the area of dental services, Wagner noted that his department had gone beyond grand jury recommendations to seek a full-time dentist in addition to a part-time dentist now serving children at Juvenile Hall. Those positions and two new dental assistants are included in the 1986-87 budget proposal to be considered by the Board of Supervisors in August, he said.

Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Betty Lou Lamoreaux, who praised the report, conceded that county dollars for new positions are scarce. But she said that added medical staff to serve Juvenile Hall, the Los Pinos Forestry Camp, the Youth Guidance Center, the Joplin Youth Center, the Girls Reentry Program and Orangewood have been needed for some time.

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“It is only going to get worse if we don’t do something now,” she said.


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