Pa. county prison earns high praise in recent health care accreditation

"The arbiters and inspectors could not have been more pleased with the care that the inmates are receiving," said the warden

By Shawn Curtis
The Tribune-Democrat
EBENSBURG, Pa. — While Cambria County Prison saw a slight jump in total new COVID-19 positive cases since Warden Christian Smith last communicated with the Cambria County Prison Board, he did have some positive details to report during Wednesday's meeting at the Cambria County Courthouse.

Smith told the board that the prison received high praise as it underwent National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) accreditation this past week. Smith noted to the board that it's not just a health-care accreditation, but a facility-wide certification.

"The arbiters and inspectors could not have been more pleased with the care that the inmates are receiving, the facility itself and the condition of the facility," Smith said.

Smith did say that there was one minor deficiency pertaining to ensuring that every inmate receives a physical within 14 days of entering the prison. The reasoning behind the delays weren't because of negligence or oversight, according to Smith.

"There were some inmates that were slightly over that 14-day time window," Smith said. "But when looked into, it was looking like COVID lockdowns and COVID quarantines, and that time that we transferred all of those inmates to Huntingdon, that pretty much forced those (physicals) to be done at a later date."

The warden explained that the NCCHC accreditation process happens every three years.

"I don't see any reason why we shouldn't get the final accreditation here soon," Smith said.

Smith said that the facility just went through its third wave with the novel coronavirus, reporting that the prison has seen a total of 374 positive cases during the pandemic. Of those 364 cases, 300 were inmates, 67 were prison staff and seven were PrimeCare employees.

Since April's report, Smith told the board that there are 81 new positive cases. Currently nine staff members — all of whom are off work — and 17 inmates are battling the virus.

The prison's screening, testing, cleaning, social distancing and quarantining practices remain in effect, according to the warden.

[Next: Why facility accreditations are important]
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