A health care firm that treats sick inmates at the Westchester County jail is under fire after a doctor accused the company of terminating him because he gave his honest medical opinion in court.
Dr. James Brill, a former physician at Colorado's Jefferson County Detention Center, says in December of 2014 he was called to testify in the case of an inmate who suffered a stroke behind bars. Brill testified he would have sent the inmate to the hospital hours earlier than medical staff actually did. Shortly after his testimony, Brill was fired.
"I got a phone call from somebody in the corporate office saying, 'You're terminated,'" said Brill. "Two hours following that testimony, my job was done."
Brill is now suing Correct Care Solutions, the jail medical firm in charge of both the Colorado detention center and the Westchester County Correctional Facility. He said firing him after he gave his honest medical opinion sends a chilling message to other health professionals working behind bars.
"If a company can do this to me it can do it to you. So it's totally unethical." said Brill.
Jim Cheney, a spokesman for CCS, declined to say why Brill was terminated, but pointed out that the physician was a subcontracted employee, inherited by CCS when the company acquired a previous medical provider called Correctional Healthcare Companies (CHC).
"Dr. Brill's contract to provide medical services at the Jefferson County, Colorado jail was concluded by its terms when responsible CHC personnel provided him with notice that the contract would conclude," Cheney wrote in an email to the I-Team. "That decision was not related in any manner to any testimony provided by Dr. Brill in an unrelated civil action."
Despite stressing that Brill worked as a subcontractor and not directly on CCS payroll, Cheney confirmed CCS took control of CHC before Brill was terminated.
"We were obviously a part of the process when he was let go," Cheney said in a phone call with the I-Team.
Brill's attorney, Mari Newman, says her client's experience -- getting dismissed after giving his honest medical opinion -- is reason for Westchester County to reconsider its relationship with CCS.
"It would be a profound mistake for New York to allow Correct Care Solutions to be in charge of the medical care at its detention facilities." Newman said.
But Cheney said the termination of a jail doctor in Colorado has nothing to do with inmate care in New York.
"The past relationship between Dr. Brill and CHC lacks any connection to the performance of medical services for the Westchester County Department," Cheney wrote.
Before the lawsuit in Colorado, Correct Care Solutions was already under fire for allegations of deficient care in Westchester County. In 2013, Rashad McNulty, a prisoner awaiting sentencing on a federal drug charge, died of a heart attack behind bars despite complaining of chest and stomach pains for 4 hours. The New York Commission of Correction concluded the death might have been prevented if CCS staff had simply sent McNulty to the hospital in a timely fashion.
Despite McNulty's death, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has stood by CCS, renewing the company's deal to provide jail healthcare in 2015. Astorino did not respond to the I-Team's request for comment. Though they declined to comment on the McNulty case, both CCS and Westchester County, in their court filings, have denied McNulty was given deficient medical care.