06-22 Rhonda Newsome-01

Rhonda Newsome

Anderson County needs a medical provider for its jail that performs efficiently and effectively, meets constitutional standards, and protects taxpayers from excessive liability and litigation.

To get one, the county must fire the jail's current operator, TAKET LLC, when its one-year contract expires Jan. 1. Renewing TAKET's contract to provide health care in the jail would risk more negligence and litigation.

Based on the recommendation of Sheriff Greg Taylor, commissioners awarded the $210,000 contract to TAKET last September, three months after negligent care contributed to, or caused, the death of prisoner Rhonda Newsome, a recently completed investigation by the Texas Rangers shows. 

Anderson County never put the contract for jail medical services up for bid; instead, it informally solicited proposals, otherwise called quotes, County Judge Robert Johnston said Thursday. Making matters worse, TAKET's proposal was the only one county commissioners considered. 

 In 2018, Anderson County contracted with TAKET's two principals: nurse Timothy Green and Dr. Adam Corley. This year's contract went through Green's and Corley's company, TAKET LLC.

 Either way, Green and Corley have been responsible for the jail's medical care for several years. Either way, it has to stop.

 On June 15 of last year, Newsome, 50, was found “unresponsive” in the jail, the Rangers' investigation stated, nearly seven hours after Palestine Regional Medical Center contacted Green about Newsome's blood test results. The test showed Newsome, without immediate medical attention, was in imminent danger of death.  

 More than six hours later, however, jail staff were still preparing Newsome for transport to the hospital.

 Staff also tried to use a malfunctioning defibrillator on Newsome. It was improperly stored, lacked adult pads and working batteries, and was under a three-month-old factory recall.

 Texas Health and Safety Code requires such defibrillators to be maintained and tested; Green told an investigator he didn't know who was responsible for maintaining Anderson County's defibrillator. 

 Johnston told the Herald-Press the county would consider other vendors this fall. That's a good first step. 

 Anderson County residents deserve an open and transparent process, especially on any matter concerning the county jail. Taylor has practically closed it to public scrutiny, including refusing to allow the Herald-Press inside the jail. 

Over the last year, Taylor has rejected numerous requests for information, records, and surveillance video related to Newsome's death, and asked the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to do the same.

 On Aug. 23 of last year, the sheriff's office, in response to an open records request, said it had erased, or “recorded over,” the video from the day Newsome died.

 Taylor even denied a request from Newsome's son, Regan Kimbrough, for Newsome's medical records, ignoring Kimbrough's rights as administrator of his mother's estate.

  The Texas Rangers completed its investigation into Newsome's death about six weeks ago. The Herald-Press requested and obtained the report, the first information released to the public on how Newsome, 50, died in a holding cell. 

 Newsome died three months after she was jailed on assault charges stemming from a family dispute. Like most of the roughly 100 people who die in Texas jails every year, Newsome was charged with a crime but not convicted.

  Anderson County has seen enough incompetence, secrecy, neglect, and unnecessary suffering and death.

Commissioners ought to seek a competent medical contractor to replace the substandard and risky service Anderson County is getting now.

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