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Bad Medical Care in the Wichita Jail

May 14th, 2013 | Category: Wichita County

By Alyssa Johnston, April 25, 2013

Four former employees of the Wichita County Jail and Correctional Healthcare Management Inc. (CHM) have filed a lawsuit against several Wichita County Sheriff’s Office employees, including Sheriff David Duke and CHM.

The lawsuit filed March 28 by attorney Rickey Bunch alleges the employees’ constitutional rights were violated. The case is styled as Larry Duffie, Sheryl Ware, Alice Stoddard and Tessa Martinez, plaintiffs vs. Correctional Healthcare Management, Inc., Allison Smith, R.N., Sheriff David Duke, Deputy Chief Derek Meador, Chief Deputy Kevin Callahan, Captain Donny Johns and Deputy Mark Whipple, defendants.

Duffie, Stoddard, Ware and Martinez collectively brought the civil lawsuit against their former employer and supervisors claiming the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to free speech and their right to due process were violated.

CHM is an outside company contracted to provide medical care to Wichita County Jail inmates.

According to the lawsuit:

The incident began with an illegal medical operation by head nurse Smith, who was promoted in November 2010 with less than one month experience as an RN over other applicants who had substantially more experience.

In mid-January 2011 an inmate was bitten by a spider and it became “fested and very painful.” The inmate was assessed Feb. 4 and it was determined she needed medical treatment by a physician and should be transported to the emergency room.

Smith began a procedure on the inmate and did not take her to be seen by a doctor. The inmate believed Smith was a licensed physician because Smith did not identify herself otherwise, the suit says.

“Without calling or leaving the nurse’s station or consulting with any physician, and without any written instruction, standing orders, or medical protocols, Smith unilaterally decided … she would lance the infected area without (the inmate’s) informed consent.”

The allegations continue:

Smith did not document the procedure in the inmate’s medical file and later told the jail doctor she did something she wasn’t supposed to.

Stoddard reported the incident to Martinez, who was directly under Smith at the time, and the information was then shared with Duffie. Both Martinez and Duffie were “shocked” by the allegation and felt they had an obligation to report the incident to the Texas Board of Nursing. Duffie pulled the inmate’s medical file and found there were no physician notes, orders or other documentation concerning the “unlawful medical procedure” by Smith.

Ware met with Martinez at a restaurant and delivered an exact copy of the inmate’s file on Feb. 8, 2011.

After Smith discovered Ware and Martinez reported her to the Texas Board of Nursing, she claimed medical notes and records were missing from the file. The plaintiffs claimed they were wrongfully terminated after interviews by Johns, Meador, Callahan, Duke and Whipple in March 2011.

The lawsuit also claims:

Whipple conducted a perfunctory investigation of these allegations and took no further action. The plaintiffs state they were not discharged because of unsatisfactory job performances.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants conspired with Smith so she could interfere with their employment and did so in retaliation for filing the confidential complaint against Smith with the Texas Board of Nursing, a complaint they were all legally and morally obligated to file as licensed vocational nurses in the State of Texas.

The plaintiffs are seeking to recover exemplary damages from Smith, individually, for intentionally interfering with their employment and having criminal charges pressed against them; a monetary judgment equal to the wages and benefits lost in back pay and future pay and benefits they are likely to suffer; and a monetary judgment for emotional pain and suffering and a sufficient amount to punish CHM, Smith, Whipple, Johns, Meador, Callahan and Duke to the greatest extent of the law for their conduct.

Ware and Martinez were no billed by a Wichita County grand jury in June 2011 for charges of tampering with governmental records.

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