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Broadduss v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 30, 2018



          STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Pro se Plaintiff Roger Broaddus is a former inmate incarcerated with the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”). He brought the present lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated. He alleges his rights were violated regarding medical treatment for a hernia from which he suffered at the time. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kerr ignored his complaints relating to the course of treatment for the hernia, and also alleges that Defendant Wexford, the medical provider for IDOC, had a policy of not approving surgeries in order to save costs. This matter is before the Court on two motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants (Docs. 47, 55). As discussed below, the Court finds that an unconstitutional practice by Wexford could be reasonably inferred, and its motion is DENIED. Since Defendant Kerr, however, bore no personal responsibility for Plaintiff's harm, her motion is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         At all times relevant to this suit, Plaintiff was an inmate incarcerated by the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) at either Big Muddy Correctional Center (“Big Muddy”) or Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff first noticed his hernia in January or February of 2009. (Doc. 48-4, p. 5). In 2009, Plaintiff saw his primary care physician, a non-Wexford physician, regarding his hernia, and his physician indicated that surgery to repair the hernia was elective. (Id. at 14). Since Plaintiff did not have health insurance, he did not elect to have surgery at that time. (Id.). When Plaintiff had insurance in February 2010, he elected to have the surgery. (Id.). His doctor, however, found that Plaintiff had a heart flutter, told Plaintiff that the surgery would not be performed, and sent Plaintiff to the hospital in an ambulance. (Id.).

         After he was incarcerated at Big Muddy, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Larson, a Wexford doctor, on September 18, 2010 for complaints of a right inguinal hernia that had been present for two years, but that reduced when he laid down. (Doc. 48-2, p. 2) Plaintiff complained of occasional straining while using the bathroom. (Id.). His vital signs were stable and he appeared in no apparent distress. (Id.). Dr. Larson diagnosed Plaintiff with an uncomplicated, easily reducible right inguinal hernia and decided to implement a “Watchful Waiting” protocol. (Id.) According to Dr. Larson, “Watchful Waiting” is a term used by physicians who chose to implement a continuing monitoring protocol with patients diagnosed with uncomplicated hernias that are not painful and present no health risk to the patient. (Id.).

         From January 3, 2011 to November 16, 2012, Plaintiff presented to a healthcare provider regarding his hernia at least 20 times. (See Id. at 3 - 9; Doc. 48-3, p. 1 - 2). During some visits at various times during this period Plaintiff complained of pain associated with his hernia, and on at least one occasion he reported nausea. With each visit, Plaintiff's hernia was ultimately reduced, and was easily reduced on most occasions. In addition, on January 17, 2011, Plaintiff was provided with a hernia belt for support. (Doc. 48-2, p. 3). Also during this time, on September 19, 2012, Plaintiff was transferred from Big Muddy Correctional Center to Robinson Correctional Center (“Robinson”). (Doc. 48-3, p. 2).

         On November 21, 2012, physicians Loftin and Haymes participated in a collegial review regarding referring Plaintiff for an evaluation of a surgical repair of his hernia. (Id. at 2 - 3). According to Dr. Shah, these doctors discussed that Plaintiff had a right inguinal hernia the size of a tennis ball or a softball, and that Plaintiff complained of worsening pain. (Id. at 3). The doctors also discussed that the hernia could be reduced if Plaintiff was relaxed with his legs slightly bent. (Id.). The doctors decided on an alternative treatment method in favor of conservative on-site management. (Id.).

         From November 28, 2012 to February 20, 2013 Plaintiff presented to healthcare providers for his hernia three more times. (See Id. at 3 - 4). During this time Plaintiff complained that his hernia had been “popping out” more frequently, he became nauseated, and Dr. Loftin noted the hernia was slower to reduce. (Id. at 3). On February 27, 2013, Dr. Loftin and Dr. Garcia discussed Plaintiff's hernia during a collegial, and Plaintiff was approved for a surgical evaluation of his hernia. (Id. at 4).

         On March 21, 2013, Plaintiff was seen at Carle Hospital for a surgical consultation with Dr. Kimberly Cradock. Plaintiff reported that while his hernia used to spontaneously reduce, it did not do so any longer. (Id. at 4). He complained of pain in his right groin which was exacerbated with motion and coughing. (Id.). Plaintiff stated that his hernia sometimes reduced on its own when he laid supine at night, but that it would take the hernia 45 minutes to reduce and had negligible effect on his pain. The doctor noted the possibility that Plaintiff had a left inguinal hernia as well. (Id.). She also noted that Plaintiff's hernia was completely reducible. (Id.). Dr. Cradock's recommendation was to perform a laparoscopic right inguinal hernia repair, as well as, possibly, a left inguinal hernia repair. (Doc. 48-1, p. 61). Though Dr. Cradock recommended surgery, on March 27, 2013, Drs. Loftin and Haymes denied approval for a surgery, noting that Plaintiff's hernia was fully reducible during his visit with the surgeon. (Doc. 48-3, p. 5). The doctors decided to continue following Plaintiff's care on-site. (Id.).

         Roughly a month later, on April 29, 2013, Plaintiff presented to a nurse with complaints of his hernia not reducing. The nurse observed that Plaintiff's right testicle was red and swollen. (Id.). He was placed on a bed, and his hernia was reduced in 30 minutes. (Id.). On the same evening, Plaintiff complained to a nurse that the area around his hernia was sore where it was put back in, and that he was sore more than usual. (Id.). The nurse explained that Plaintiff's hernia was not currently strangulated, but made sure he understood the signs and symptoms of a strangulated hernia so that he could come to the healthcare unit if such symptoms arose. (Id.).

         On May 3, 2013, a “code 3” medical emergency was called to Plaintiff's housing unit. Plaintiff complained that his hernia was out and was too sore to push back in. (Id.). He indicated that his hernia had been worse for the previous three weeks and that it “pops out all the time.” (Id. at 6). Plaintiff did not try to reduce his hernia due to the pain. Plaintiff was encouraged to try to reduce the hernia, and a nurse called Dr. Shah. (Id.). The doctor prescribed Vicodin painkillers to be taken immediately and as needed for the following 24 hours. (Id.). Dr. Shah saw Plaintiff the next day in the infirmary. Plaintiff indicated that he was feeling better, his hernia reduced, and that the swelling was gone. (Id.). Dr. Shah discontinued Plaintiff's Vicodin, prescribed Ibuprofen, and discharged Plaintiff from the infirmary. (Id.).

         Between May 6, 2013 and June 29, 2013 Plaintiff presented to medical providers on four or five occasions with complaints relating to his hernia. (See Id. at 7 - 8). In this time period, Plaintiff had difficulty reducing his hernia, and on at least one occasion, could only reduce his hernia by bending his legs.

         Sometime in October 2013, Plaintiff submitted a request to be seen by Assistant Warden Brucart regarding issues with his hernia and his eye. (Doc. 48-4, p. 30, 31). Plaintiff felt like he was not getting his medical needs met. (Id. at 30). During this meeting, Warden Brucart summoned Defendant Susan Kerr who was the Healthcare Unit Administrator (“HCUA”) at Robinson. (Id.). During this meeting, Plaintiff stated that his hernia was getting unbearable and that he was unable to walk. (Id. ...

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