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Hospital: self-harming jail detainee has run up $500,000 medical bill

Stroger Hospital | Google Maps

On Monday, county officials and the hospital had reached an agreement to send Lamont Cathey to the county-run Stroger Hospital, spokesman Frank Shuftan said. | Google Maps

Lamont Cathey has spent the last four months under the 24-hour watch of three sheriff’s deputies and a hospital aide at Loyola Medical Center’s campus in Maywood, suffering from a series of self-inflicted injuries, and from an ongoing bureaucratic struggle between county officials, the sheriff and hospital administrators.

Cathey has had multiple “procedures” since he arrived at Loyola on April 10, when he was released from a state prison in Dixon and brought back to Cook County to face pending charges in a theft case.

The 22-year-old was well-known to Sheriff Tom Dart’s staff at the jail, and the county-run Cermak hospital inside the jail complex. A 2015 Chicago Tribune story identified Cathey, 22, as an inmate whose penchant for eating metal objects had cost the county more than $1 million in medical bills.

According to a lawsuit filed last week by Loyola, Cathey has racked up another $500,000 tab since he was dropped off at the hospital in April, and the hospital wants Cathey shipped to a county hospital and for taxpayers to pick up his bill.

On Monday, county officials and the hospital had reached an agreement to send Cathey to the county-run Stroger Hospital, spokesman Frank Shuftan said. What the county will pay for his care at Loyola had not been settled.

On July 3, the 6-foot, 7-inch, 280-pound former basketball standout injured a hospital guard and threatened staff, the lawsuit said. Lawyers for Loyola did not respond to requests for comment. The lawsuit, filed against the county and Sheriff Tom Dart, does not mention Cathey by name.

In a response filed Monday, county lawyers said Loyola has left out details in the lawsuit: Cermak doctors determined as Cathey was en route from Dixon that he belonged at Loyola, where he twice had had surgeries in March. Loyola’s lawsuit said Cermak doctors refused to take Cathey because he was being fed through a tube because of an injury.

Loyola staff performed a “procedure” on Cathey three days after he arrived at the hospital in April, and was “investigated for treatment involving medical intervention” less than two weeks later, according to the county. In early June, according to the county, Cathey was “treated for multiple life-threatening conditions requiring medical interventions.”

Reports from the sheriff’s officers assigned to guard Cathey in his hospital room state that Cathey admitted swallowing a catheter clamp while he was being bathed by hospital staff.

Neither suit says what the surgeries were for, but Loyola’s complaint notes that Cathey has a “fistula” between his skin and intestines because of a “self-inflicted wound.”

“In any event, the detainee is not in any condition to transfer to either the Cook County Jail or another hospital, as Loyola’s own physicians have continued to indicate,” the county’s reply states.

Meanwhile, the medical drama has meant the criminal case that is keeping Cathey in county custody has all but stalled in Judge Carol Howard’s courtroom. In April, Howard ordered a mental health evaluation for Cathey — who has been found mentally fit to stand trial in other criminal cases he has faced — but county psychiatrists will only see him in their offices adjacent to the jail, according to court records.

In public statements over the years, Dart more than once has cited Cathey’s bizarre history of self-harm — without mentioning him by name — as an example of the mental health crisis facing jail staff. The sheriff’s office was willing to take Cathey back at the jail, if only to close out his case and get him somewhere he is less likely to hurt himself, said Cara Smith, Dart’s director of policy.

“His behavior (while in custody) is as predictable as the sun coming up,” Smith said. “Putting aside who should be caring for him, there is this overarching criminal case that should be dealt with … so it can be resolved and he can be sent to IDOC or back home, or wherever he needs to be.”