ReGina R. Thurman’s obituary says she died unexpectedly.
That’s not entirely true. In her last hours of life, the mother of four was seen by two nurses at the Jackson County jail who were sent to check on Thurman’s complaints of burning chest pains, a backache and numbness in her left leg.
The guard who had to use a wheelchair to bring Thurman to a changing area because she was struggling physically also saw her distress.
And one of her daughters, a nurse, desperately tried to call the jail when she was alerted to her mother’s failing condition by another female inmate who had access to a phone. Jail staff transferred the daughter’s call to voicemail. Not once. Not twice. But four times.
Imagine her anguish when she arrived at the jail to ensure her mother had access to money for the commissary. Instead, she was told her mother was dead.
Two Tums, over-the-counter antacid tablets, were the extent of the medication Thurman received. At least until she was discovered without a pulse.
It will probably require an expensive lawsuit and some soul-searching by Jackson County officials to uncover the truth about the circumstances surrounding Thurman’s death in January. An autopsy later determined that an aortic dissection was the cause of death. That’s a condition where the main artery to the heart shreds and tears.
Not all medical maladies are immediately recognized. And well-intentioned people make mistakes. But this horrific, possibly preventable death has all the markings of a poorly functioning system colliding with bad judgment. That’s a prescription for a disastrous outcome.
A $3.2 million annual contract should guarantee more accountability. That’s the amount Jackson County pays Nashville-based Correct Care Solutions for health care at the jail.
Jackson County needs to explain how much due diligence it did before signing a contract with this company. The county also needs to consider how the firm’s work should be evaluated. Simply handing off the medical duties at the jail to an outside entity does not negate Jackson County’s responsibilities.
Correct Care also holds contracts with the Wyandotte County Detention Center and the Johnson County Adult Residential Center. The company works in 38 states and Australia.
And they’re hiring. Correct Care now is offering a $1,000 signing bonus for three positions at the Jackson County jail — for two registered nurses and one licensed practical or vocational nurse.