It took the deaths of eight people since 2010 incarcerated at the Snohomish County Jail in Everett, Washington—or, as a result, at least two pending claims against the county—to convince jail officials in August 2013 to finally hire a lone doctor to work at the facility.
When 59-year-old Bill Williams—jailed for alleged shoplifting and shocked twice with a Taser by a guard on September 14, 2012—went into cardiac arrest, there was no doctor to care for him, but rather an understaffed team of registered and licensed practical nurses. He died in jail.
When Lyndsey Lason's infected lungs filled with fluid after she was booked into the jail on prostitution and drug charges, there was no doctor— besides one the nurse could telephone, if needed—to prescribe medications or treat her. The 27-year-old died in jail on November 11, 2011.
As his allergies triggered an attack of bronchial asthma, there was no doctor to provide care for Michael Saffioti, 22, who had been booked into the Snohomish County Jail because there were concerns his health would be at greater risk in the city of Lynnwood's lockup. A Lynnwood judge had Saffioti incarcerated for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Saffioti died in the Snohomish County Jail on July 3, 2011.
In April 2010, so did 38-year-old Landon Hays. Diane Cowling, 65, and Jason Elliott, 32, died there in 2011. In February 2013, 41-year-old Leon Moore died in the Snohomish County lockup. And, most recently, Kathleen Swann-Deutsch, 51, died there on July 26, 2013, after she had been booked on DUI charges. Swann-Deutsch's death was still under investigation.
Since Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary was appointed in July 2013, emphasis has been placed on shoring up the jail's medical staff—starting with a doctor—especially after staff from the neighboring Pierce County Sheriff's Office, which has dealt with similar issues, examined the jail and made recommendations.
Besides adding a doctor who will work full-time at the jail by sometime in 2014, Trenary also hopes to add 10 more nurses, raise nurses' pay and stop hiring from agencies providing the jail with temporary medical workers to care for the roughly 115 prisoners from surrounding cities and law enforcement agencies the jail incarcerates at any given time.
Trenary said a doctor, more nurses and mental health staff, and switching to electronic medical records—which will cost at least $900,000— should "allow us to adequately care for inmates."
"A year from now, my goal is we're on the right path," Trenary said.
For the families of those who died in a jail insufficiently staffed, the changes are too late.
The family of Lyndsey Lason, who prisoners said had pleaded with jail staff for medical care, has filed a $10 million wrongful death claim.
Saffioti's family has hired a Seattle attorney to get answers in his death, and Williams' family is also considering legal action.
Sources: The Associated Press, www.komonews.com, www.heraldnet.com
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