Three deaths described by the Seattle Times at King County’s jail in downtown Seattle were among the worst of hundreds of medical errors committed by jail health staff at the county’s jails. In 2005 alone, more than 600 errors were logged. Mistakes can not only injure inmates but also create the need for more costly medical care and expose the county to possible lawsuits.
A Times investigation found a county jail medical system in turmoil. Among findings: In dozens of cases, staff denied needed drugs to inmates with illnesses ranging from HIV to seizures. Other inmates were not adequately treated for painful illnesses and injuries. Employees, from nurses to pharmacists, say they are overwhelmed and cannot properly care for patients. Pharmacy staff, who fill hundreds of prescriptions a day, routinely have given out the wrong medicine. Drugs, including narcotics, disappear and cannot be accounted for. The average daily inmate population for both jails in 2006 was 2,397. For the past three years, the average daily population of inmates under medical care in the two jails has been 116, and the average number of inmates under psychiatric care per day has been 97.