Terminations ensue amid ongoing accusations after mentally ill inmate gives birth in cell

Doctor, nurse fired after Tammy Jackson gave birth alone

By Layron Livingston - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - One by one, they took to a podium outside the Broward County Commission meeting room -- women representing more than 50 advocacy and community organizations. One by one, they said her name: Tammy Jackson. 

"We must speak out," said one of the women.

The women addressed Broward County commissioners in early June, calling on officials to make sure that what happened to Tammy Jackson never happens again.  

Jackson, who has a mental illness, was pregnant and alone on April 10. She was in an isolation cell at the North Broward Bureau when she gave birth to her daughter. 

"It was neglect, emotional abuse and distress," Jackson said, speaking exclusively with Local 10 after she was released from custody, and following a mental health evaluation. "It isn't a joke when it comes to pregnancy, and if they don't want to abide by that, they should get fired because I don't believe [any] woman should really have to go through that." 

Local 10's Leave it to Layron investigation into the alleged incident prompted the Broward County public defender to look into the allegation. The public defender also addressed a letter to Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony. 

The letter claimed jail staff called the on-call doctor about Jackson's condition shortly after 3 a.m. But jail staff did not get through to the doctor until after 7 a.m. The doctor said he would check on Jackson once he got to the jail.

The incident report obtained by the Leave it to Layron team notes that three hours after that reported conversation, an officer spotted Jackson "squatting and screaming in pain" and called for a nurse.

Moments later, Jackson was seen holding her baby in her arms.

"What was done was horrific," said Broward County Vice Mayor Dale Holness during that June meeting.

Holness acknowledged he and other commissioners vote on the budget for the Broward Sheriff's Office, but he advised the crowd that commissioners do not run the Sheriff's Office. Another elected official -- the sheriff -- is in charge of the agency's operations. But Holness said that he and commissioners would try to find ways to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

"That doesn't say we can't stand up for what is right," Holness said.

Tony was pressed about the incident during an appearance on Local 10's "This Week in South Florida."  

"I agree that it's appalling," Tony said.

He also revealed the inmate medical provider, Wellpath, had "terminated some people" connected to the incident.

"From everything I've been able to see so far, our deputies went through the standard checks and balances for notifying the personnel," Tony said.

Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes called the relationship between the BSO and the medical provider problematic.

"You create that layer of, 'It's them, and not me,'" Weekes said. 

The Broward County public defender referenced Jackson's case in another letter sent to the sheriff last month, prompted by what the public defender called two "highly suspect" inmate deaths within a week's time.

"I think we should all be concerned about the frequency in issues in the jail, and the severity of issues," the letter stated.

The public defender said one of those inmates went without food and water for some time while in BSO custody. In a statement, the Sheriff's Office strongly refuted those claims, along with several others. 

The LITL team has since learned that a doctor and a nurse were the two people fired in connection with Jackson's incident.

A Sheriff's Office spokesperson said the medical provider had "taken corrective action and provided additional training to improve the care of pregnant inmates."

After repeated requests for comment, Wellpath provided the LITL team with a statement from the head of its Local Government Healthcare Division:

"Wellpath is committed to delivering high-quality medical care to all of our patients in Broward County," said Cindy Watson. "Since the beginning of our relationship with BSO we have operated a continuous quality improvement program in accordance with [National Commission on Correctional Health Care] standards to build a culture of safety and monitor quality care. Continual performance improvement helps prevent adverse outcomes. In the event of an adverse outcome, we review the facts and work toward implementing system wide improvements. These improvements include but are not limited to conducting additional trainings. All successful healthcare programs implement changes that work towards preventing future incidents. Our goal is to strengthen everyone on our team that provides patient care."

Copyright 2019 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.