Commissioners to weigh in on jail medical plan

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will be weighing in on the next sheriff’s office medical plan for the jail.

The focus will be how and when family members are notified of a Beaufort County Detention Center inmate’s admission to the hospital and visitation protocol while the inmate is a patient at the hospital.

The issue arose after the death of 28-year-old Cory Anderson, who died in May 2017 after being admitted to Vidant Beaufort Hospital from the county jail, where he was serving a 30-day sentence for a probation violation. Anderson died from pneumonia and septic shock, according to the Office of the State Medical Examiner’s report. Anderson’s family has questioned the protocol since, as they were not notified of the hospitalization by the sheriff’s office, according to Johnny Anderson, Cory Anderson’s uncle. The family was notified by the hospital instead, according to county officials.

Anderson has spoken at the board’s meetings throughout the year, asking commissioners to take up the issue. Commissioner Hood Richardson previously asked county staff to look into the board’s ability enforce an ordinance altering sheriff’s office protocol, but the School of Government, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Office Association and North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, all responded that Sheriff’s Office would not be bound to that ordinance. An inquiry to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office returned that the board does not have the ability to pass an ordinance “mandating performance of a duty on a constitutional officer.”

However, a jail’s medical plan must be approved by a governing board, according to state statute.

In a 5-2 vote at the Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners voted to request Sheriff Ernie Coleman present the sheriff’s policy regarding inmates’ hospitalization to the board at Monday night’s meeting. Chief Deputy Charlie Rose appeared in his stead and issued an invitation to commissioners to amend the medical plan to reflect the changes before it is adopted.

The medical plan is updated every year.

“It’s the time, now, that the medical plan is drafted,” Rose told commissioners.

According to Rose, Beaufort County Detention Center Administrator Lt. Kathryn Bryan is responsible for drafting the plan, then Beaufort County Health Department Director Jim Madson approves it.

Rose said, while the current medical plan is in compliance with state statute, the sheriff’s office will present the plan to the board once it’s completed.

“Then it will be the prerogative of the board to approve or change it,” Rose said.

Commissioners asked that the plan be presented at the board’s November meeting.