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Corrections wants to use former rehab hospital

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State Corrections Department officials have their sights set on the former O'Donaghue Rehabilitation Institute in Oklahoma City as a possible home for a prison hospital.

Sen. Dick Wilkerson, D-Atwood, said the center could handle 100 patients for short-term hospital care. It would have space for 60 men and 40 women as well as holding cells for 68 others on site awaiting medical treatment.

"I like the idea of doing this, if we can afford it," Wilkerson said.

"The O'Donaghue building is standing empty, and it is adjacent to the University Hospital complex," said David Miller, chief of administrative services for the Corrections Department.

"The O'Donaghue center would be an ideal hospital facility," Miller said. "We'd have our clinics where doctors come to, in a secure area."

The Corrections Department wants $686,000 in next fiscal year's budget for architectural studies.

The conversion of the center could cost $10.5 million.

Health services for inmates now are provided at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman and at University Hospital in Oklahoma City. Those would be moved to the new center, if the proposal is approved.

More prisoners are now being taken to University Hospital, where they sometimes have to wait several hours for treatment.

"When guards come in with shackled inmates to University Hospital clinics, the other people there don't like it," said Rep. Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur. "Do you want inmates coming into your cafe? It's the same thing."

Griffin Memorial is not able to provide adequate care, Hilliard said.

Miller said the prison system has 20 beds at Griffin and doesn't have a ward at University. He said inmates are placed in regular rooms and require two guards each.

The Health Sciences Center would use the hospital as a teaching tool for those studying to be doctors and nurses.

A year ago, the department appeared ready to begin a $5 million, 250-bed cell house at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center near Lexington to provide geriatric care for inmates.

Miller said last month that the department was taking $2.9 million in federal grant money earmarked for that project and using it for more pressing needs.
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