published Friday, December 6th, 2013

Gastric illness strikes 31 Bradley Jail inmates

The Bradley County Jail is in Cleveland, Tenn.
The Bradley County Jail is in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Since late last week 31 Bradley County Jail inmates have been moved into a dormitory cellblock for treatment of gastritis by the jail's medical staff, according to the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

The first illness occurred late Nov. 28, and over the weekend four inmates were taken to SkyRidge Medical Center for treatment, said Bob Gault, spokesman for the sheriff's office. Those inmates have recovered and were returned to the jail earlier this week, he said.

Medical personnel report the sick inmates have responded well to treatment, Gault said.

The Bradley County Health Department, the Tennessee Corrections Institute and the state Department of Health are investigating. Shelley White, spokeswoman for the state health department, said officials have confirmed one case of salmonella infection but no specific source for the illness has been identified.

TCI, which establishes minimum standards and provides technical assistance for correctional facilities, contacted the Bradley County Jail in response to a request for information made by the office of state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, said Kate Abernathy, spokeswoman for the organization.

On Thursday, Watson said his office made the request after family members of inmates asked him to look into the matter.

"I'm not familiar with that situation in the jail," said Watson, who is campaigning to unseat incumbent Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth. "All I know at this time is what I've read in the local media."

Abernathy said TCI records show the Bradley County Jail recently was recommended for certification. The jail was inspected Sept. 5, with a follow-up inspection Oct. 1, she said.

Gault said the jail's medical unit is supervised by QCHC, a Birmingham, Ala., company that provides medical services to a number of correctional facilities.

"The jail's staff takes a proactive approach to stopping the spread of germs with cleansing agents to reduce illness among the jail's inmate population and correction deputies," he said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Contact him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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