CLEVELAND (WJW) — A FOX 8 I-Team investigation has found ambulance crews rushing so many Cuyahoga County Jail inmates to the hospital, we had to ask why.
And, we uncovered how much you are paying for in medical care for Cuyahoga County inmates. Last year, the bill to taxpayers reached nearly $20 million.
Bars and locks hold inmates in the Jail, but look at how many leave to go see the doctor.
Last year, 974 went to the emergency room. Most by ambulance. Some in a Sheriff’s Department car. And, 1,784 went to appointments with doctors.
We took those findings to Black Lives Matter. The group keeps a close watch on what happens in the jail. And, in recent years, the Cuyahoga County Jail has been under a spotlight for conditions and medical care following the deaths of inmates.
We asked Black Lives Matter organizer Kareem Henton what he’d like to know after hearing almost a thousand inmates went to the ER.
“Definitely a why?” Henton said. “But, you know, even more so, is what are we doing next? How are we going to be vigilant to stop this from happening?”
The Sheriff refused to answer questions from the I-Team.
He recently told Cuyahoga County Council, “It seems to be something that’s just happening. I don’t have a lot of data to determine why this spike is occurring. I imagine it would take a deeper dive.”
So, the I-Team took that deeper dive. We saw the number of inmates headed to the ER and doctor’s appointments both going up. And, so is the bill to taxpayers. Last year, the medical bill for Cuyahoga County inmates reached $19,737,354.
We also reached out to MetroHealth Medical Center, who oversees medical care at the Jail.
Dr. Julia Bruner, Sr. VP of Behavioral Health/Correctional Medicine, outlined the Top 3 reasons why inmates go to the ER. She mentioned, chest symptoms, abdominal pain and assaults in the jail.
“They require a higher level of imaging and evaluation than what can be done within the jail itself,” Dr. Bruner said. “If it is a minor fracture that we can manage here at the jail, we do.”
Last year, two medical workers got fired for not following protocols, or guidelines, before an inmate died. At the same time, Dr. Bruner also told us inmates can’t easily fake their way into a trip to the ER.
Still, round-the clock, police bring more inmates to the jail.
Now, the I-Team, county council and activists are all taking a closer look at inmates going to the doctor. The issue affects people on the streets in ways they may not realize.
For instance, Cleveland EMS is chronically short-staffed. When ambulances are tied up on inmate hospital runs, those crews can’t get to other calls from citizens.
And, the sheriff’s department sends two deputies with every person going to the ER or a doctor. That places a strain on the department. The I-Team has reviewed internal text chains with the department struggling to find enough deputies to work overtime and handle hospital details.