Law Allows Va. Inmates to Cross Line for Trauma Care
A Virginia General Assembly bill about inmate health care -- sparked in part by a Bristol Herald Courier investigation -- now needs only the governor's signature to become state law.
Senator Phillip Puckett's bill, SB 818, would allow state officials to create a sort of medical treaty with neighboring states so jailers can leave Virginia to get to the nearest hospital trauma center.
That way, guards can keep custody of the inmate following treatment and return them to jail.
As it stands now, Southwest Virginia's jail population has to rely on a Roanoke hospital to treat the most serious medical emergencies, although there are facilities much closer across the border in Tennessee.
Puckett's proposed legislation was approved in the Senate earlier this month in a unanimous vote. On Tuesday, it passed the House of Delegates with another unanimous vote.
It now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.
The impetus behind the bill is a 2011 Herald Courier story about an inmate's four-hour, 197-mile ambulance ride from Red Onion State Prison in Pound to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Inmate Kawaski Bass, serving 65 years for robbery, assault and carjacking, suffered abdominal bleeding and severe head injuries following a fight with his cellmate.
He died shortly after reaching the hospital.
Under Puckett's proposal, jailers would have been able to take Bass to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., a 75-mile trek, or Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn., a 78-mile trip.
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