TB or Not TB, That is the County's Question

Yesterday, we told you how Dallas county officials are beginning to expect (fear?) that the Department of Justice is going to propose a staggering series of costly recommendations on how to fix the long-beleaguered jail once and for all. Well, now we're hearing reports that the feds are going to work off an already existing template, the 2005 consultants report from Dr. Michael Puisis, the former medical director of the Cook County Jail in Chicago. After county judge Margaret Keliher took the initiative to secure private funding to pay for the study, Puisis spent nearly two weeks at the jail. He would soon conclude that the county and its medical provider, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, were providing health care on the cheap.

Throughout his 52-page report, which county would later fight to keep out of the public's hands, Puisis chronicled a series of cases where ailing-inmates did not receive necessary medical care, resulting in progressive illnesses, diseases and even death. Puisis also found that the jail lagged far behind other similar facilities in screening for tuberculosis and failed to report TB cases to the state, a violation of state law. In sum, he referred to the jail's pattern of health care as a "form of systemic incompetence." Other than all that, he was impressed.

If the feds are following the Puisis report, as I'm hearing, they're probably going to recommend TB screenings for all inmates and improved intake and follow-up procedures in general. They may very well spell out to the last Ibuprufen exactly what kind of care they expect. Again, we can't stress this enough: Nobody expects the health care at the jail to rival the Mayo Clinic. But if an inmate is ailing, you can't let him languish for weeks without medical care. This should be obvious. --Matt Pulle

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