Anderson County Jail needs a medical provider that performs efficiently and effectively, meets constitutional standards, and protects taxpayers from excessive liability and litigation.
To get one, county commissioners need to fire their current provider, TAKET LLC, when its one-year contract expires Jan. 1. Renewing TAKET's contract to provide healthcare in the jail would risk litigation and more negligence.
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 Texas Rangers investigation shows.
Newsome was “unresponsive” in the jail, the investigation found, nearly seven hours after Palestine Regional Medical Center contacted nurse Timothy Green and indicated the results of Newsome's blood tests were dangerously abnormal and life-threatening.
More than six hours later, 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.
When investigator Stephen Baggett of the Texas Rangers asked Green who maintained the defibrillator, Green said he didn't know.
Despite the negligence found in Newsome's death, Sheriff Greg Taylor, three months later, recommended contracting with TAKET.
Anderson County never put its contract up for bid; instead, it informally solicited proposals, otherwise called quotes, County Judge Robert Johnston said Thursday.
Johnston told the Herald-Press the county would consider other vendors this fall.
Without a public letting and bidding process, however, the people won't know what contractors commissioners considered, or why they picked a certain vendor.
Anderson County residents deserve an open and transparent process, especially on any matter concerning the county jail, which Taylor has practically closed to public scrutiny.
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.
Nor will Taylor allow the Herald-Press inside the jail, an almost unheard of restriction by a sheriff.
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 on June 15 of last year.
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.
In 2018, Anderson County contracted with TAKET's two principals: 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. Either way, it has to stop.
Anderson County has seen enough incompetence, secrecy, neglect, and unnecessary suffering and death. With competitive bidding, commissioners should seek a competent medical contractor to replace the substandard and risky service they're getting now.