A former inmate is suing Ramsey County and medical staff at the county's workhouse after he said his tuberculosis went untreated for 54 days while he served time there last year.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Marchello McCaster said the medical staff at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility was indifferent to his tuberculosis, even as he coughed up blood and lost more than 20 percent of his weight.
McCaster was eventually admitted to Regions Hospital, where doctors said he had active TB and was highly infectious, according to the lawsuit. McCaster said several medical problems resulted from failure to treat his TB right away, including malnutrition, depression and anemia. He had lost 41 pounds.
"The nursing staff's unresponsiveness to McCaster's serious medical needs is evidence of the most callous disregard for McCaster's health, life, and his rights," the lawsuit said. The lawsuit said the medical staff violated constitutional amendments calling for equal protection and prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.
Ramsey County corrections spokesman Chris Crutchfield declined to comment on the lawsuit. But he said the workhouse's standards for detecting diseases like tuberculosis meet all requirements set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's something that we take very seriously," he said. "We have screened all of our inmates and continue to."
According to the lawsuit, Ramsey County a year later hired an expert to evaluate the workhouse's program to prevent transmission of TB and other diseases. Dr. Robert Greifinger found many problems with the program and testified that a report on a correctional facility nurse's lack of responsiveness has constitutional implications, according to the lawsuit.
McCaster alleges in the lawsuit that inmates and correctional officers complained to workhouse staff about McCaster's medical condition, asking that he get attention. Instead, the nursing staff "never showed any concern about McCaster's medical condition or its effect on those around him," the lawsuit said.
After McCaster was diagnosed with TB, Ramsey County health officials found dozens of fellow inmates and employees who tested positive for TB. Some of the former inmates have filed a class-action lawsuit against the county for allegedly failing to protect them.