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CMS Fails to Treat MRSA Infection; Florida Jail Prisoner Dies

When Dorothy Dian Palinchik was booked into Florida’s Pinellas County Jail (PCJ) on February 13, 2008 for stealing a $9.00 Philly cheesesteak sandwich from a grocery store, she was seemingly healthy. Two weeks later she died of pneumonia and an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

Palinchik’s family suspects she caught Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) shortly after arriving at the jail. Within a week after being booked, Palinchik, 42, was placed in PCJ’s medical wing.

Her family claims that she repeatedly asked for medical care. Although Palinchik had a fever of 101.5 that raged for five days, she was only given one Motrin and one Sudafed. While some may wonder at such inadequate treatment, this is only one of numerous failures perpetuated by Correctional Medical Service (CMS), the jail’s private health care provider. [See, e.g., PLN, Aug. 2002, p.1; May 2007, p.1].

After ten days at PCJ, Palinchik was sent to a local hospital. Doctors determined she had pneumonia and MRSA, and put her in a drug-induced coma in an attempt to save her life. The aggressive MRSA infection had already blackened her hands and feet; the doctors were considering amputating all her limbs. Just six days after she arrived at the hospital, Palinchik died.

An autopsy determined that she had succumbed to MRSA. “If she wasn’t massively infected, she’d be alive right now,” stated Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin. “It’s like saying if not for the gunshot wound to the head this person would be alive. It’s that absolute.”

“Someone went in to the jail apparently very healthy and became sick enough that she died,” said Mark Buell, Palinchik’s family attorney. “The question is not where the germ came from, but did they give her appropriate medical care or were they indifferent?” Palinchik’s family is considering filing suit.

An internal jail investigation, released on July 17, 2008, concluded that Palinchik had received proper medical treatment. Only one mistake was noted – a jail sergeant who threw away a medical request form instead of filing it. That error reportedly did not contribute to Palinchik’s death.

Another PCJ prisoner, Roy Daffron, has claimed that CMS is guilty of “neglect, mistreatment and abuse.” Daffron believed he has MRSA, and informed jail medical staff about his symptoms on March 24, 2008. Yet he didn’t see a doctor until almost two weeks later on April 7. Although they hadn’t done a culture of the infection on Daffron’s stomach at the time, CMS staff said he didn’t have MRSA. Both CMS and PCJ stated Daffron was receiving proper medical care.

“It’s not a safe place,” observed Gerald Green, whose father, Orell Green, died in 2006 of jaundice and hepatitis shortly after being rushed from PCJ to a hospital. He was only given Motrin by jail staff. “You won’t get any medical treatment and people do die in jail,” said Gerald.

The story of Diane Palinchik’s short – and fatal – stay at PCJ proves that point.

Sources: St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald, North County Gazette

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