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Continued: AP Exclusive: Ky. inmate starves himself to death; doctor fired, hunger strike rules rewritten

  • Article by: BRETT BARROUQUERE , Associated Press
  • Last update: April 21, 2014 - 4:45 PM

Phone and email messages left with the company seeking comment from managers there and from Wilkinson were not returned.

Hiland said the Corrections Department used Embry's death as an excuse to fire him so that Correct Care Solutions could fill his $164,554-a-year job more cheaply. Since firing Hiland last month, the state has given the Corrections Department's medical chief, Douglas Crall, direct oversight of medical care at the penitentiary. The state has also hired the company on a one-year contract worth $14.8 million to provide nurses for all 12 of Kentucky's prisons.

"I never saw this guy, never met him," Hiland said of Embry. "I was convinced it was a way to get rid of me. I was told I should have known about it."

Hiland, who maintained a private practice in Eddyville, a town of 2,500, while he was in charge of health care at the nearby penitentiary, didn't address the state's claims directly, saying only that he was on vacation when Embry died and did nothing wrong.

It's not the first time his work has been called into question. The doctor has been sued in federal court 103 times since 1992 by inmates and their attorneys.

While many of the lawsuits filed were dismissed, Hiland reached an undisclosed settlement with the family of one inmate who died after Hiland repeatedly diagnosed him as faking illness. U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell Jr., in declining to dismiss the family's lawsuit against Hiland, wrote that the attention paid to the inmate's medical complaints was "so cursory as to amount to no treatment at all."

The Kentucky Attorney General's Office criminal review of Embry's death is ongoing, Daniel Kemp, a spokesman for Attorney General Jack Conway, told the AP.

Once the investigation is complete, corrections officials will decide whether to file complaints with the licensing boards overseeing the doctors and Wilkinson, department spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said.

"We are still reviewing all possibilities, which is one reason we asked an outside agency to look at our investigation in order to see if any other actions were warranted," Lamb said.

Embry, a heating and air conditioning repairman by trade, had no family or friends visit him at the prison, and no one claimed his remains. He is buried in a potter's field near the penitentiary.

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