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CMS Nurses Disciplined in Kentucky Prisoner’s Death

The Kentucky Board of Nursing has disciplined two nurses who were on duty when a prisoner died one day after he was booked into the Fayette County Jail. Prisoner Dean Ferguson, 54, died of a pulmonary embolism on July 10, 2010 after complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath.

The nurses, Karen J. Newton Hodge and Stephanie Denise Slaughter Travis, were employed by the jail’s medical contractor, Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (CMS).
They failed to provide medical care for Ferguson despite observing him in distress. The nurses reportedly thought he was “faking” an illness.

After a complaint was filed by Ferguson’s family, the Board of Nursing issued a subpoena for “copies of any facility investigation regarding the death of inmate Dean Ferguson on July 10.” Two days later, CMS employee Jonathan Bowen, who served as the medical director at the jail, left his job. No reason was given for his departure and CMS refused to comply with a public records request for documents related to Bowen’s termination of employment.

Hodge and Travis agreed on March 28, 2011 to have their licenses suspended for three years, according to the Board of Nursing’s Executive Director, Charlotte Beason. The suspensions, however, were stayed while they work under a limited/probated status during that time period. They must also take 60 hours of training and pay $1,800 in civil penalties.

Beason said that Hodge and Travis will be monitored by the Board and be under rigid supervision. CMS spokesman Ken Fields refused to provide information on their employment status with the company, though they were still working at the jail as of October 2010.

Ferguson was serving a weekend sentence for DUI and driving on a suspended license. His estate filed suit against the county, which was removed to federal court on July 1, 2011, claiming that Ferguson was subjected to “egregious and unjustifiable treatment” which led to his death. The lawsuit also names CMS, Hodge and Travis as defendants. See: Ferguson v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Ky.), Case No. 5:11-cv-00213-JMH-REW.

Sources: Associated Press,

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Related legal case

Ferguson v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government