The family of a man who died of an asthma attack at Forsyth County Jail has filed a wrongful death complaint against the prison doctor.
DeShawn Coley died in prison on May 2, 2017, one of two men who died in prison that month. Stephen Patterson was found unconscious in his cell on May 26, 2017 and later died of “likelihood of cardiac dysrhythmia due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease,” according to his autopsy. Patterson’s son filed a lawsuit against the healthcare provider in December 2018.
The lawsuit filed by Coley’s mother as administrator of her estate names Correct Care Solutions, which held the contract at the time of Coley’s death, as well as WellPath, a successor company, as defendants. WellPath was formed in 2018 through a merger between Correct Care Solutions and Correctional Medical Group Companies, according to the company’s website. Coley’s lawsuit also names six employees as defendants working as nurse practitioners, registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.
The lawsuit contends that prison medical staff knew that Coley, who had made at least nine visits to the Winston-Salem emergency room in the previous six months, was being treated for asthma and was using inhalers when he was admitted to prison on April 20, 2017 to serve a sentence for traffic violation. The information was documented in a “screening receipt” document signed electronically by two nurses; the same day, nurses approved a referral form allowing Coley to be seen by a doctor for his asthma, then faxed requests from Walgreens and CVS for his medication history.
The lawsuit alleges that staff repeatedly failed to provide Coley with his medication and inhaler over the next few days.
The complaint includes a handwritten inmate grievance statement by Coley two days before his death, stating: “I feel my life is in danger because I have severe asthma and I cannot get my inhaler on. when needed. I have asked time and time again for something to be done without a response. My next step is to bring someone of higher power there. Coley continued, “Call my doctor so he can explain it to you. I’m on steroids but didn’t have any. Please someone respond. The lawsuit alleges that Walgreens and CVS referred Coley’s prescription records to Correct Care Solutions, confirming that he had received prescriptions for Prednisone, described as “an oral steroid commonly prescribed for the treatment of asthma.”
The prosecution cites a report from an Inman officer that he observed that Coley was exhibiting labored breathing and was unable to speak in full sentences on May 1, when nurse Carol Surratt – named as one of the accused – administered its treatment with an albuterol nebulizer. The lawsuit said Inman observed Coley “repeatedly asked to be taken to the emergency room” and alleged that Surratt “said that was not going to happen.”
The lawsuit says that about two and a half hours later, an officer Haynes called nurse Kristen L. Johnson – also named as the accused – and told her Coley was having difficulty breathing and asked again his inhaler. Johnson reportedly told Haynes that it was “not time” for Coley to use his inhaler. In response to attempts by multiple officers to get Johnson to come to Coley to administer the inhaler, the lawsuit alleges Johnson insisted officers bring Coley to the medical unit. As officers drove Coley to the medical unit, he went into respiratory arrest and was confirmed dead at 2:43 a.m. after unsuccessful resuscitation efforts by detention officers, as well as staff from Forsyth County EMS and the Winston-Salem Fire Department.
Judy Lilley, vice president of communications and public affairs at WellPath, said the company had not been served with the lawsuit and, as a matter of principle, was not commenting on pending litigation.
“This case is truly a preventable tragedy,” Lonnie Albright, an assistant county attorney assigned to the sheriff’s office, said in an email. ” So sad. My heart broke for this man’s mother.
Albright said he listened to Coley’s phone calls to his mother and common-law partner from the prison’s phone recording system in an effort to figure out what had happened.
“This young man, like so many others, stumbled and fell, was paying his debt to society through incarceration, being lectured by his mother about cleaning up his act, doing something with his life and so away, ”Albright said. “A week later and he’s gone.
A second death in prison
Stephen Patterson was admitted to jail 16 days after Coley’s death. According to a complaint filed by his family, Patterson answered “yes” to the medical screening question: “Do you ever have or are you currently being treated for asthma, diabetes, seizure disorders, thyroid, heart problems, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders? or kidney disease? The lawsuit says Patterson told his medical examiner he was “supposed to be under [a] Combined HTCZ / lisinopril pill and has not taken it for more than six months because he has no supplier.
The lawsuit contends that at the time of his screening, Patterson’s blood pressure was recorded at 210/140, a range that “constitutes a hypertensive crisis that can lead to death, serious injury, target organ damage and / or changes. neurological manifested by mental disorders. status, confusion and anxiety.
Despite Dr Alan Rhodes’s order to take and record Patterson’s blood pressure every day for three days, the lawsuit alleges the procedure was only conducted once, on May 19, and then halted. The lawsuit alleges that caregivers also failed to perform simple diagnostic work such as blood tests, EKGs or urinalysis or even ask Patterson how he was over the next seven days.
The lawsuit alleges that “CCS medical and nursing staff failed to meet applicable standards of care and failed to properly treat, manage, assess and / or monitor the deceased, directly and immediately causing sudden cardiac death. on May 26, 2017. “
On the day of Patterson’s death, the lawsuit alleges that he told a detention officer that “he had been visited by Jesus” and that “everything would be fine.” Later that day, a mental health caregiver allegedly found Patterson sitting on his bunk, rocking and tapping his fingers on the mattress while counting, and observed feces spread out on the cell floor and vomiting in his toilet.
In January 2018, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill determined that there was no basis for criminal charges against anyone involved in Patterson and Coley’s deaths.
“The supplier did not have a full workforce”
Lonnie Albright, the deputy county attorney assigned to the sheriff’s office, said in an email today that Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough has met with management at WellPath on several occasions to discuss “appropriate staffing issues.” Kimbrough defeated Bill Schatzman, who was sheriff at the time of Coley and Patterson’s death, in the 2018 election. Kimbrough took office in December.
“Assurances have been given to Sheriff Kimbrough that the prison will be adequately staffed and that financial penalties will be in place for the seller if he does not live up to his end of the bargain,” Albright said. “The sheriff is very concerned about the health care for all inmates and inmates at his detention center. “
Albright said he “did not know until recently that the provider did not have a full complement of health workers.” He added that a meeting between the seller and county officials “made it clear that the county demands profit from its market and credit for the services the seller is committed to providing, but has not. made”. As an example, Albright said Correct Care Solutions billed the county for a pharmacy technician position that was vacant. Albright said that to the best of his knowledge “the violation has been corrected”.
“Sheriff Kimbrough is aware of this issue and has not mince words with the management of the supplier,” Albright said. “He was very clear when he told them he wanted whatever he was paying for.”
The county commission last voted to extend Correct Care Solutions’ contract for medical services in the prison in July 2017. At the time, the company was the only bidder.
In June 2017, Correct Care Solutions agreed to add staff to manage prescription drugs in Greensboro and High Point prisons following discussions with the family of a woman who died from “epileptic activity. prolonged ”, after being refused access to her. prescribed anti-epileptic drugs.
“Correct Care’s direct telephone contact with the pharmacy or external provider, coupled with the fax request pursuing it, is designed to further reduce any potential delay in inmate care,” the County Sheriff’s Office said. Guilford in a press release at the time. “These procedures are followed weekdays and weekends.”
The Patterson lawsuit argues that the policies of Correct Care Solutions (now WellPath) “are largely driven by CCS’s commitment to its overall goal of reducing / saving costs.”
The lawsuit alleges that the “misconduct” of medical and nursing staff at Forsyth County Jail and other detention facilities contracted with Correct Care Solutions was “widespread” and argues that at least seven inmates have died at the Forsyth County Jail 2011-2014 ”due to inadequate or inappropriate care from nursing and / or medical personnel.
The Forsyth County Commission has approved a $ 180,000 settlement to the family of Dino Vann Nixon, who died in prison in 2013 following what the medical examiner described as withdrawal from the drug, benzodiazepine. anxiety marketed under the name Xanax. And the family of Jennifer McCormack Schuler, who died of a heart attack suffered in prison in 2014, have agreed to settle for unspecified financial damages. The settlement ended a lawsuit in which McCormack’s family alleged that nurses’ failure to provide him with Zofran, an anti-nausea drug, prevented him from taking other needed medications.