Nurse faces questions in Ramsey County inmate death, resigns job

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2007 - 9:10 PM

Criminal charges could be filed in the death of a diabetic patient in the Ramsey County jail.

A jail nurse may face criminal charges for failing to check the blood sugar of a diabetic inmate who was later found dying in his cell, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said Friday.

The nurse has resigned from the county Health Department, and St. Paul police are investigating whether her acts constituted criminal negligence in the Oct. 22 death of Randy Gallmeyer, Fletcher said.

Gallmeyer, 46, of St. Paul, died of untreated diabetes after being taken from the jail to Regions Hospital.

Fletcher apologized to Gallmeyer's parents, Bernie and Nora Gallmeyer of West St. Paul, in a call Friday.

"That's a good first step in the healing process," said their attorney, Beau McGraw. "However, the family believes that many questions remain unanswered."

Gallmeyer was arrested by St. Paul police on Friday, Oct. 19, on suspicion of drunken driving on an electric bicycle near Rice and Front streets.

He refused a breath test and was booked into the jail.

By the time he was found in his cell with a faint pulse about 7 a.m. Sunday, his blood sugar levels had shot up to 1,200 mg/dL, about 10 times the average, according to his parents.

"We are reviewing all of our policies and procedures as they relate to the few days that Mr. Gallmeyer was housed at the Law Enforcement Center," Rob Fulton, public health director, said in a prepared statement. "We will make any changes necessary in these policies and procedures based on this review. We will address additional staffing needs that may be necessary to strengthen work at the Law Enforcement Center."

County officials refused to release the nurse's name.

Fletcher also acknowledged lapses in communication between jailers and nursing staff.

"This is a very tragic situation, one that could have likely been avoided on a number of fronts," the sheriff said.

An autopsy found that Gallmeyer died of ketoacidosis, a disorder in which there's not enough insulin to lower the blood sugar. The body then uses fat for energy, and this produces ketones, some of which are acids. It can cause heart irregularities, dangerously low blood pressure and ultimately, coma and death.

Vital tests never administered

Fletcher said a jail nurse saw Gallmeyer at 9:40 p.m., four hours after his arrest that Friday, but the man appeared intoxicated and uncooperative, and a blood-sugar test wasn't taken.

On Saturday, at 8 a.m. and at 11 a.m., Gallmeyer again declined blood-sugar checks.

Fletcher said the first-shift nurse briefed the second-shift nurse on Gallmeyer's need for blood-sugar checks and insulin, which his mother had brought to the jail late Friday.

That Saturday afternoon shift nurse failed to follow protocol by not offering Gallmeyer a test between 3:30 and 4 p.m., and again at 8 p.m., Fletcher said. No insulin was administered, he said.

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Randy Gallmeyer