By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
ESL: In the last 10 days, the Dallas Observer and The Dallas Morning News both reported on the plight of Jeffrey Ellard, an inmate at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center who needed a hastily arranged court hearing to ensure he received medical treatment for a festering gash in his left thigh. On June 1, criminal District Judge Robert Francis freed Ellard--in jail for DUI--on a personal recognizance bond so he could see a doctor. At the time, Sharon Phillips, a vice president at Parkland Memorial Hospital, which handles medical care at the jail, said she couldn't talk to us about what sort of treatment Ellard had received. Federal privacy laws kept her mum.
Apparently those laws didn't apply to Allen Clemson, the administrator for Dallas County Commissioners Court. Phillips told Clemson that Ellard had received care all along. In fact, Clemson later told the county commissioners that Ellard had been brought to Parkland the day before his hearing. What had looked like just another story in a long string of news reports about horrendous medical neglect now appeared to be false, and Ellard looked like a big fibber.
We'd be pretty mad at Ellard--acting neglected when he was seeing doctors all along--except for two things: First, if he had seen a Parkland doc and was left in the condition he showed us--we're talking runny pus--then God forbid Buzz should ever end up at Parkland. Second, what Clemson told commissioners isn't true. Ellard signed paperwork allowing us to see his medical records. The last time he visited Parkland before his release was on March 22.
Phillips now tells us through a spokesperson that she never told Clemson that Ellard visited the hospital the day before his hearing. Clemson's report to commissioners was a "misunderstanding." Government folks are always having misunderstandings, misstatements, miscommunications, etc. They don't lie. They just have lousy language skills. (Clemson could not be reached for comment.)
As far as Ellard's claim that he never saw a doctor during his 22 weeks in jail, his medical records are inconclusive. (We rushed to review them on deadline.) We do know that on the morning after his release from the jail, Ellard went to the Parkland emergency room, endured three hours of examinations and was attended to by two doctors. They prescribed medication and told him to return to the wound care unit every week for follow-up treatment.