Medical care at Douglas County Corrections under fire

By  | 

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A 6 News investigation has uncovered a number of allegations by inmates at Douglas County Corrections over the lack of medical care. Several of the claims will soon turn into lawsuits.

6 News first brought one of the cases to light in an exclusive report in June examining the death of Roger Cook.

When Aaron Papst found his cousin in the grass in front of his home in April, he couldn’t believe staff at the Douglas County jail called the inmate a cab instead of an ambulance.

“He’d been telling them he was sick for two months and they did nothing about it,” said Papst. “You could tell he was sick. He couldn’t walk. I had to help him in the house.”

Roger Cook also talked in a whisper because he could hardly breathe.

Just how sick was he?

Hours after the 55-year-old was released from Douglas County Corrections for serving his time, he was admitted to intensive care. He was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

Family tells 6 News the cancer had been undiagnosed until he got to the hospital.

Roger Cook died 10 days later.

“This is disgraceful. It’s not Nebraska,” said Omaha civil rights attorney Tom White, who first heard of the story on our air. “It’s beneath us as a people. The citizens of this county should demand better.”

When Roger Cook started his sentence in Douglas County, the six-footer weighed 189-pounds.
When he was released, he weighed 125-pounds.
He lost 64-pounds in 6-months.

“Mr. Cook died with lung cancer and didn’t even get a pain pill or an aspirin,” said Tom White. “I don’t care what he did and it wasn’t serious – he violated a protection order and, as I understand it, not in a violent way – nobody, no human being deserves to die like that.”

It’s not just Roger Cook’s case that has raised warning flags – Tom White’s team has filed eight tort claims on behalf of 8 former inmates alleging Douglas County Corrections repeatedly failed to provide proper medical treatment.

The claims range from a man who says he needed a wheelchair but was denied, to the inmate with the untreated broken hip. “They brought him into the medical care unit and a nurse said, ‘I don’t want to see him unless he’s bleeding or a bone is sticking out,’ said Tom White.

Another inmate said he was denied medication for internal bleeding. Another man said doctors failed to help with his pain after a cinder block wall in the bathroom collapsed.

“If you have just one person complaining about the situation in jail, it’s like, ‘Yeah, right?’ But then we had a flood of them. Within a couple of weeks, we had 6-or-7 with serious denials of health care -- Some life threatening and some just cruel.”

Douglas County spends $5.5-million every year for a Tennessee company – Correct Care Solutions – to be the jail’s medical provider.

We asked the company about the allegations, and were told no one could talk about it because of privacy regulations.

In a statement to 6 News, the director of Douglas County Corrections, Mark Foxall, says his team takes “these allegations very seriously” and that “each tort claim is investigated in conjunction with Correct Care Solutions.” Foxall added that providing inmates with “high-quality health care….is a top priority.” He ended the statement this way: “We cannot specifically comment on these concerns through the media due to confidentiality laws and pending litigation."

“There’s a big difference between us and those tin-pot dictators,” said attorney Tom White. “We have a level of civilization we demand of ourselves.”

It’s been six months since Roger Cook took his last breath. His family is hoping that by suing the county – they can finally get answers.

Several family members questioned if the allegations of a lack of medical care at the jail is somehow tied to a company boosting its bottom line. A spokesman for Correct Care Solutions emailed 6 News with this response: “It’s not our policy or approach to sacrifice the quality of our care based on pricing.”

"Provision of high-quality health care to individuals under the supervision of Douglas County Department of Corrections is a top priority,” said Douglas County Corrections director Mark Foxall in a statement emailed to 6 News Wednesday afternoon. “We contract with a national healthcare company, Correct Care Solutions, who has established expertise in working with high-risk populations in a correctional environment. Douglas County pays Correct Care Solutions more than $5.5 million annually to provide all medical, dental and mental health care to individuals in our custody. Douglas County Department of Corrections books over 18,000 individuals annually. Medical staff members complete full medical, mental health and dental screenings for everyone who enters the jail and ensure all individuals understand how to access medical care while they are housed in the jail.”

Click on the following names to read the eight tort claims filed against Douglas County Corrections and its medical team:
Roger Cook
Marvin Wynne
Tevin White
Willie Aponick
Anthony Casaus
Edward Leza
ShaRon Ellis