An administrator for Armor Correction Health Services, Inc., was forced out of his position by Florida’s Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The administrator, Lewis Hays, was involved in the death of Allen Hicks, Sr. 51, who died at the Hillsborough County Jail after languishing for days in his cell following a stroke. (See: PLN November 2014, p. 40). According to Hillsborough County officials, Hays “offered misleading information as to the existence of the notes” of Hick’s care. The review into Hicks’ May 2012 death also found Hays and his assistant “engaged in conduct that appeared to be intended to intimidate and coerce “the nurse who belatedly recognized Hicks’ stoke symptoms.
Pinellas County entered into a contract with Armor in 2013 for it to take over some medical care, including dental and mental health services, for its prisoners. Over the next two years, the deal is set to provide $6.5 million in revenue for Armor.
Hays was the chief administrator of the Hillsborough County contract. Rather than having his conduct there results in consequences for his career, it acted as a boom. He was promoted to regional vice president overseeing the Pinellas contract.
Armor CEO Bruce Teal rejected Hillsborough’s review of Hays’ conduct. “He disagrees with their findings and believes that Lewis Hays did not act improperly,” said Gualtieri. “I told him to get this guy out of our jail. I don’t want him to here.”
While Armor has no choice in the matter because Gualtieri controls who enters his jail, Armor continued to defend itself and Hays in Hicks’ death.
“Armor cooperated with the [Hillsborough] Sheriff’s review, and continues to cooperate with the Department of Health’s review of a handful of Armor staff. Mr. Hays is under review by any agency,” said Armor spokeswoman Yeleny Suarez. “Armor will always support its caregivers and support staff in their efforts to fulfill its mission as it is the right thing for our patients, our staff and our communities.”
The continued employment of Hays by Armor reflects the biggest problem with private prison health care: lack of accountability in the pursuit of profit.
“For Armor, this is an employee who helped save them money by delaying or denying medical care, and is trying to protect the company,” said Alex Friedmann, PLN managing editor. “It does not surprise me at all that people who operate in the best interest of the company would be rewarded.”
Gualtieri said he will scrutinize Armors employees more closely going forward. “Obviously, we’ll probably take a closer look and more skeptical eye of people that are assigned and any baggage they have,” he said.
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