The state has appointed an acting medical director for Kentucky prisons who will continue to work for and be paid by the private company that provides the state prison system's health care.
Dr. Ron Everson was named by the state to coordinate and oversee the work of CorrectCare Integrated Health, the company where he is regional medical director for four Eastern Kentucky prison facilities.
CorrectCare provides medical care for Kentucky prisons. It works for the University of Kentucky in a public-private partnership that essentially provides prisoners with an HMO for medical care. The university has a two-year, $104 million contract with the Department of Corrections.
In his state role, Everson checks credentials and supervises medical providers and nurse administrators for Kentucky's Department of Corrections.
He is also in charge of quality assurance, said corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb.
Lamb said there is no conflict in Everson serving in both roles. CorrectCare is paying Everson's salary and the state is providing no additional compensation to him, she said.
Linda Goins, president of CorrectCare, which is based in Lexington, referred questions about Everson back to the state.
Richard Beliles, the chairman of the watchdog group Common Cause Kentucky, said Thursday that such an arrangement is not good government.
"It would not be good if a lot of private companies could suddenly just be paying the salaries of state officials," said Beliles. "It's a push for privatization, which is probably not in the general best interest of the public."
The agreement between UK and the state does not prohibit a CorrectCare physician from serving as acting medical director during the absence of the state corrections department's medical director, Lamb said.
The corrections department sought the advice of the Justice Cabinet, whose staff then contacted the state Personnel Cabinet's General Counsel's office, Lamb said.
"We were assured there was no conflict of interest in Dr. Everson filling this role on a temporary basis," she said.
If Everson is still operating under the terms of the existing contract, "it doesn't appear that there would be an ethics violation," said John R. Steffen, executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
Between 2000 and 2006, Everson worked for the corrections department at the Kentucky State Reformatory, Roederer Correctional Complex and Northpoint Training Center, Lamb said.
Following the resignation of Dr. Scott Haas as medical director for the corrections department, Everson is serving until the position is filled permanently, Lamb said.
CorrectCare has helped UK create the Kentucky Corrections Health Services Network to deliver specialty care to the department of corrections.
CorrectCare provides the prison's health care under a contract that ends June 30, 2012.
Lamb said Everson could not talk to the Herald-Leader because he had served in the position for such a brief period of time.