Sunday, May 27, 2007

Attorney seeks information on poor medical conditions at McLennan County Jail

This note was left this morning in the comments to an older Grits post and I thought I'd post the attorney's request in case there's anybody out there who'd like to help her out.
I am an attorney and I represent the former Nurse Supervisor at the McLennan County Jail [Waco] who reported the grossly inadequate medical assistance at the Jail and after six months of trying to get change to happen, was fired due to her reporting the problem. A lawsuit is pending against the County on her behalf. Anyone with information AND willing to be public about retaliation for reporting poor medical conditions at the McLennan County Jail from October 2006- March 2007 can contact me. Please be aware that since this is a lawsuit, your response cannot be kept confidential, and I may or may not be able to respond.
Brenda H. Collier
UPDATE: The whistleblower plaintiff was allegedly terminated for testifying to the Texas Legislature about McLennan jail health problems!

I emailed Ms. Collier to ask for a copy of the plaintiff's original complaint to get more information about the lawsuit. Take a look at it here, and a couple of other documents related to the case. According to the plaintiff, Charlice Woodruff:
Woodruff reported, among other things, the failure by the County Jail to have appropriate medical staff to care for inmates, for failing to properly dispense and dispose of drugs, and the failure by the jail to follow doctors’ orders. Woodruff reported that these matters placed the health of the inmates at risk, violated law, and in some specific instances placed the lives of specific inmates in jeopardy. Woodruff also reported that certain narcotic drugs were missing and requested an investigation be conducted. ...

She learned that these conditions had been ongoing prior to her arrival at the County and that prisoners were routinely not provided medication and medical services and such information was being covered up by the County. Prior to March 1, 2007 Woodruff prepared a memo detailing some of the issues that she had reported previously and presented it to the County Attorney, Michael Dixon. Dixon told Woodruff that he wouldn’t want to see a copy of the memo in the County files due to a pending potential wrongful death claim where an inmate had died at the County jail after allegedly receiving insufficient and improper medical care. ...

Woodruff had scheduled some time off to attend a legislative session in Austin, Texas to work on, among other things, protections for nurses who report unsafe medical conditions. Woodruff returned from that trip on March 6, 2007.

When Woodruff attempted to return to work on March 6, 2007 immediately following her visit to the legislators proposing additional protection for nurse whistleblowers, Woodruff was met at the jail/workplace by Captain Mynar, and was barred from entering the workplace. At that time Mynar informed Woodruff that she was placed on “administrative leave”.

While on “administrative leave” and without notice to Woodruff, Woodruff’s job was offered to another nurse employed outside the County. The employees of the medical services at the County Jail were instructed to have NO CONTACT with Woodruff, or face disciplinary action. Woodruff was left to twist in the wind.

Woodruff requested a meeting with the Sheriff’s Office, which was held on March 21, 2007. At that meeting Woodruff filed her formal grievance with the County. A copy of the grievance is attached to this Amended Petition as Exhibit 2. At the conclusion of the meeting the County denied Woodruff’s grievance. Woodruff filed this lawsuit March 23, 2007.

Woodruff was then notified that her job was terminated by the County effective March 29, 2007, less than 30 days after presenting the Woodruff memo to the County. At the same time as Woodruff was fired, at least two other nurses employed by the County Jail were fired, and the approximate 27 year contract with the Doctor (Dr. Rodney Ryan), who had provided medical services for prisoners at the McLennan County Jail was terminated on one day’s notice to Dr. Ryan.
Juicy stuff - these allegations represent much more than just evidence from insiders about poor jail health conditions. They tell us that some Sheriffs will allegedly use pretty darn draconian tactics to keep themselves from being held account for preventable jail deaths. Legislators need to have a talk with her former bosses - they need to make sure government employees feel free to report abusive practices to the Legislature and discourage coverups to avoid more TYC-like catastrophes.

One of Woodruff's big concerns about in-jail healthcare in McLennan county are practices that make it more likely inmates could suffer preventable but pontentially fatal staph infections when receiving in-jail health care, a problem that's surfaced in many larger jails around the state. Bully for Woodruff for speaking out and bringing the issue to light via litigation.

Read the linked documents for more, and I'll try to provide updates as the case moves forward.


Anonymous said...

Woodruff needs to continue the fight and I hope others will come forward. Staph is out of control in other jails also and needs to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

It is about time an attorney is gutsy enough to take a case like this . Now someone needs to look at the atrocious lack of medical care by UTMB in TDCJ. They were awarded more money even though the care is way below "constitutional". Whatever that means ! Prisoners are dying from neglect every day in TDCJ and no one can help . MRSA , a dangerous staph infection is indeed out of control in TDCJ and it is being carried out into the free world where it is getting more and more visible . I wish this nurse the very best . A friend of mine was a whistle blower many years ago against UTMB/TDCJ and lost her job and her subsequent law suit and is still fighting the system .

Unknown said...

This is so typical of how whistle blowers are treated. When discussing whether to turn in drug dealing in the workplace I strongly advise NOT to do this. It will be treated like you were a whistle blower. Your career might be sideswiped and it definitely won't be helped by this action. It is regrettable, but the code of silence is widespread in the business world and government.

Anonymous said...

Seriously Grits- why you don't allow attorney's to pay you a fee to advertise their name, specialty and contact info here is beyond me. Post after post stinks to high heaven with retaliation, whistleblowers, other civil rights stomping and illegal activity. If nothing else- what about a post dedicated to attorney's willing to give legal advice or pointers to people to know whether they're being screwed without vaseline?

Michelle said...

I commend this nurse for being a whistle blower. These are people and the are treated like animals not only in Mclennan county jail but all county jails and State prisons. I was incarcerated and treated very poorly regarding my medications. I watched women with horrifying staff infections that they acted unconcerned with. Also they put people with TB in general population without letting any of the inmates know. I have watched women die because the medical staff did not respond in a timely matter. The inmates had to yell and scream to get help and still they were treated like crap and not treated properly. Our system is so sad and someone needs to take a stand before more deaths occur.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend in the McLennan County Jail that has some type of rash on his leg. When I went to see him on Saturday, he said he couldn't get any medical attention. When he first arrived there, he was on a prescribed medication and requested it. It was over a week before they got him his medication. I just hope this rash on his leg is not some type of staph.

Dont Be Denied said...

I researched a few la companies that LAB SCREEN/test for M.R.S.A.
Here's one I found, although the state won't pay for expensive lab testing of this sort. Not now....but it will eventually. Nurses and doctors, however, can send a swab test for evaluation, if they really wanted to.

Oxoid Denim Blue Agar
Chromogenic Medium for MRSA Screening

Oxoid Denim Blue Agar - Chromogenic Medium for MRSAOxoid is committed to providing quality culture media and diagnostics to the Canadian microbiology market. MRSA screening has been of particular concern for Canadian microbiologists. The latest addition to the range of “Better Tools” for MRSA screening is the new Oxoid Denim Blue Agar Plate.

The most powerful tool in MRSA screening is Denim Blue Agar:

* Early, accurate detection
* High sensitivity and specificity at 18 hours
* Easy to interpret
* Excellent colour differentiation
* Fast result (18-20 hours)
* Workup direct from DBA
* Clear easy-to-read denim blue colonies
* Rapid TAT and result reporting

In conjunction with Denim Blue Agar, Oxoid offers a full range of products for MRSA testing including enrichment broths, diagnostics for confirmation and susceptibility testing as well as QC organisms.

Denim Blue AgarDenim Blue Agar Support Papers

Denim Blue Mt Sinai Study (PDF 565KB)

Denim Blue GDML Study (PDF 63KB)

MRSA Product Information:

Denim Blue Technical Sheet

MRSA Confirmation (DR0900)

For more information on Denim Blue Agar or any other MRSA related product please contact your local Technical Representative or Suhail Khan, Clinical Market Manager at (613) 226-1318 x 271 or by email at

Anonymous said...

My son with severe bipolar is set to be in McLennan County jail 4-11-08. Lawyer tells me they have a medical unit - I'm wondering if they will administer his meds correctly. Any experience with their track record?