[Ed. Note: We have provided a much more detailed investigation into the death of Martin Harrison and of similar abuses by Corizon Health. We believe that Corizon sets up nurses and other healthcare workers to fail. Using healthcare workers outside their training and licensure, understaffing, allowing shifts to go unfilled. When these things occur, tragedies will happen. Please visit both our Corizon Health whistleblower page and our private prison healthcare page for more detailed information.]
Corizon Health is for-profit company offering medical care to state and local correctional facilities. The company recently settled a wrongful death case in Alameda County for $8.3 million. An inmate in the Alameda County Jail suffering from alcohol withdrawals was tasered and beaten to death. Family members of the 50 year old man claimed Corizon Health had staffed the jail with unqualified medical personnel.
According to published reports and court records, Corizon staffed Alameda’s jail with Licensed Vocational Nurses. Much like a Licensed Practical Nurse common to states outside California, LVN’s are limited in their duties and qualifications. The family of the deceased inmate, Martin Harrison, claims that LVNs on duty the night of the death were not qualified to work alone and must work under supervision.
What happened to Harrison isn’t entirely clear as the case was settled during trial. We believe, however, that the LVNs on duty failed to realize that Harrison was hallucinating as a result of alcohol withdrawals. Is it the LVN’s fault? Probably not. They don’t receive the requisite training to diagnose such things.
This story is already tragic. We suspect, however, that jails and prisons throughout the United States that have privatized healthcare (most do) are being short changed. That is an accident waiting to happen and a rip off for taxpayers everywhere.
When correctional facilities outsource or privatize healthcare, they typically specify minimum staffing levels and qualifications. Jails, hospitals and nursing homes all have such requirements. If the healthcare provider fails to meet those requirements and receives government money, a false claims act or “whistleblower” law violation occurs.
A whistleblower who reports such violations is protected against retaliation under federal and many state laws and can receive up to 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer (typically the healthcare provider).
We have no idea whether a whistleblower could have prevented Martin Harrison’s death* but we do know that whistleblowers have become the new American heroes. They protect taxpayers from fraud and insure that contractors remain honest. Cutting corners in healthcare is often quite dangerous; typically whistleblowers in Medicare and jail healthcare cases also save lives and reduce suffering.
*It appears that Alameda County bears some responsibility because their contract didn’t require RNs to be on duty.
If you have information about staffing violations in jails, prisons, nursing homes or other facilities or know of other violations, give us a call. We can help you decide if you are eligible for a whistleblower award and help with the required filing of a sealed lawsuit. To date we have helped our whistleblower clients collect over $100,000,000.00 in awards.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers