Group looks into sev­eral care cases

Sen­a­tors

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Con­tin­ued from A ‘We need to mon­i­tor this sit­u­a­tion, get in­volved in it and de­ter­mine whether it is site-spe­cific or sys­temic.’ Sen. Ju­dith Zaf­firini, The dis­tricts used in this year’s elec­tions were tem­po­rary maps. Con­tact An­drea Ball at 912-2506. Con­tac

called Bell’s death a “red flag” and wants to know how the De­part­ment of State Health Ser­vices is re­spond­ing to the is­sue.

“We need to mon­i­tor this sit­u­a­tion, get in­volved in it and de­ter­mine whether it is site- spe­cific or sys­temic,” she said.

State Health Ser­vices spokes­woman Car­rie Wil­liams said she couldn’t com­ment on spe­cific cases be­cause of pri­vacy laws, but stated that the agency re­views all pa­tient deaths.

“We’re al­ways look­ing for ways to im­prove when we find is­sues that might ap­ply to one hospi­tal or sys­temwide,” she said. “If a prob­lem oc­curs in one hospi­tal, we use it as a chance to re­view how we im­prove care in the rest of our hos­pi­tals.”

Dis­abil­ity Rights Texas, a fed­er­ally funded pro­tec­tion and ad­vo­cacy

D-Laredo group, is cur­rently ex­am­in­ing sev­eral other cases in­volv­ing med­i­cal care at state psy­chi­atric fa­cil­i­ties for pa­tients with eat­ing dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing one at Austin State Hospi­tal.

Health and Hu­man to be used this year, while the courts con­tin­ued to sort out var­i­ous le­gal chal­lenges to maps drawn by the Leg­is­la­ture.

Those chal­lenges in­clude ef­forts by a group of Travis County plain­tiffs and a col­lec­tion of civil rights groups who ac­cused the Repub­li­can­con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture of cre­at­ing racially and eth­ni­cally dis­crim­i­na­tory maps. Repub­li­cans de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, and the case is on­go­ing.

The Travis County plain­tiffs weren’t spe­cific in court doc­u­ments about cre­at­ing a Travis Coun­ty­cen­tered district for Doggett, said Michael Li, a Demo­cratic fundraiser and re­dis­trict­ing ex­pert. “But that was the crux of their ar­gu­ment in the first round of re­dis­trict­ing, and it very well could be again,” Li said.

State Rep. Ed­die Rodriguez, an Austin Demo­crat and one of the Travis County plain­tiffs, said in an in­ter­view that he would like to see a Travis County district in which Ser­vices Com­mis­sioner Dr. Kyle Janek is aware of prob­lems at the hos­pi­tals, said agency spokes­woman Stephanie Good­man.

“The Brandy Bell case hap­pened months be­fore Dr. Janek be­came com­mis­sioner, but he’s con­cerned about qual­ity-of­care is­sues in our state hos­pi­tals,” she said.

Re­cent prob­lems with the state-run fa­cil­i­ties, which house more than 14,000 peo­ple per year, came to pub­lic at­ten­tion in Novem­ber 2011. At that time, Dr. Charles Fis­cher was fired from Austin State Hospi­tal af­ter the De­part­ment of Fam­ily and Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices mi­nori­ties would be able to elect the can­di­dates of their choice, like they have with Doggett.

“I’d like to see as much of Travis County as pos­si­ble in one con­gres­sional district,” Rodriguez said. “I would like to see us hav­ing one uni­fied voice in D.C.”

Rodriguez said he be­lieves Doggett feels the same way, but in a state­ment Doggett said: “I re­main ready for what­ever Repub­li­cans throw at me next. I am really not con­cerned with ‘what if,’ I am work­ing on ‘what now’ is needed to serve our fam­i­lies.”

(Be­sides Doggett, Travis County is rep­re­sented by Repub­li­can U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul of Austin, La­mar Smith of San An­to­nio, Roger Wil­liams of Austin and Bill Flores of Bryan.)

Rodriguez and other plain­tiffs from Travis County ar­gued that Con­gres­sional District 25, as it ex­isted be­fore last year’s re­dis­trict­ing, was a “coali­tion district” in which whites and mi­nori­ties voted to­gether to elect can­di­dates.

A fed­eral court in Washington, D.C., agreed in July for the first time that coali­tion dis­tricts should be pro­tected, but Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral con­firmed that the psy­chi­a­trist had sex­u­ally abused two of his mi­nor pa­tients re­sid­ing at the hospi­tal.

In June, a grand jury in­dicted Fis­cher on mul­ti­ple counts of sex­ual abuse, charg­ing that the doc­tor had en­gaged in in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing and oral sex with five boys who were his pa­tients. At least four of them were younger than 17 at the time.

Over the past year, the Amer­i­can-States­man has pub­lished a con­tin­u­ing se­ries of sto­ries spot­light­ing state hospi­tal prob­lems in­clud­ing: the em­ploy­ment of mul­ti­ple psy­chi­a­trists with a his- Greg Ab­bott ap­pealed the rul­ing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ques­tion of coali­tion dis­tricts is just a small piece of a larger is­sue cur­rently be­fore the high court. The jus­tices are also con­sid­er­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Sec­tion 5 of the Vot­ing Rights Act, which re­quires Texas and sev­eral other, mostly South­ern, ju­ris­dic­tions to get all elec­tion law changes ap­proved by the fed­eral government through a process called pre­clear­ance.

As for the maps cre­ated by Leg­is­la­ture, a fed­eral court in Washington has de­clined to pre­clear them, which prompted Ab­bott to ap­peal to the Supreme Court.

And as the re­dis­trict­ing le­gal process con­tin­ues, Doggett will be watch­ing closely.

If the Supreme Court up­holds Sec­tion 5 and also up­holds the lower court’s de­ci­sion on coali­tion dis­tricts, then it is pos­si­ble that new maps will be drawn to in­clude a Travis County-cen­tered con­gres­sional district.

The fed­eral court in San An­to­nio could re­draw more per­ma­nent maps any time, said Steve Bick­er­staff, a re­tired Univer­sity of Texas law pro­fes­sor and re­dis­trict­ing ex­pert. tory of sex­ual mis­con­duct; the use of il­licit drugs by pa­tients; and a physi­cian who con­ducted unau­tho­rized re­search on pa­tients.

The news­pa­per also re­vealed that the De­part­ment of Fam­ily and Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices was al­lowed to de­stroy abuse and ne­glect al­le­ga­tions against hospi­tal staffers af­ter five years, which hin­dered the agency’s abil­ity to track ac­cu­sa­tions against em­ploy­ees over long pe­ri­ods of time. Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices now re­quires those records to be re­tained for 20 years. But he added that the court isn’t likely to make changes soon. The Leg­is­la­ture also could cre­ate new maps when law­mak­ers come back into ses­sion next month, but Bick­er­staff said that is also un­likely be­cause the Leg­is­la­ture his­tor­i­cally doesn’t re­draw courtim­posed maps.

Ab­bott has asked the San An­to­nio court to put the re­dis­trict­ing process on hold un­til af­ter the Supreme Court makes its rul­ings, which could be as early as next sum­mer. The San An­to­nio court hasn’t yet de­cided what to do.

In the mean­time, Doggett said he “will con­tinue work­ing to rep­re­sent those whom I was elected to serve along I-35.”

While some Travis County res­i­dents and of­fi­cials ad­vo­cate for a Travis County-cen­tered district, Manuel Me­d­ina, chair of the Bexar County Demo­cratic Party, said South Texas would miss Doggett if he is brought back to Austin.

“He’s been a friend to the Demo­cratic com­mu­nity across the state,” Me­d­ina said. “But even if he weren’t in San An­to­nio, we’d con­sider him a friend.”

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