Jail authority awaits final reports on inmate’s death

FRONT ROYAL — Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Superintendent William T. Wilson said Thursday that the jail’s internal investigation into the recent death of an inmate will be concluded once the Warren County Sheriff’s Office wraps up its investigation.

“I have not seen the autopsy, but from what I have been told, it has been determined as natural causes,” Wilson said after an RSW Jail Authority meeting.

He noted that they are also waiting on a toxicology report from the state medical examiner’s office, which conducted the autopsy.

Keith Vance Funk, 73, of Strasburg, was pronounced dead on July 16 at Warren Memorial Hospital while in the custody of the regional jail. He was set to appear in Shenandoah County General District Court last week on charges of public drunkenness and battery against an emergency health care provider.

Wilson said he believes that “everything went well” in terms of the staff’s response to the situation.

“I’m very proud of the staff,” he said. “As far as I can tell at this point … they did a very good job.”

Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron said, “We’re working in coordination with RSW Regional Jail to make sure they have … whatever information they need.”

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the authority’s Finance and Personnel Committee discussed concerns regarding the jail’s nursing staff.

Authority Chairman Doug Stanley said, “Our biggest problem, number one, has been staffing the positions, having them filled and having bodies here.”

Stanley said the regional jail has five nurses on staff. There are two openings.

Stanley also presented a comparative report that looked at the ratio of nurses to inmates to get an “apples to apples comparison” of the regional jails throughout the state.

The RSW Regional Jail has five nurses for 333 inmates, according to data from June. The jail’s ratio of 66.6 inmates-per-nurse is “at the average” of 66.89 inmates-per-nurse, Stanley said.

The jail’s ratio is lower than some of the larger facilities in the commonwealth, including Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth (84.93) and Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton (87.50).

However, the ratio for RSW is also higher than the 37.77 inmates-per-nurse at Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Lynchburg, which has 30 nurses on staff for 1,133 inmates — as well as the 50 inmates-per-nurse at Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange, which has eight nurses for 400 inmates.

Wilson said he has been looking into the possibility of adding certified medical assistants [CMAs] to the jail’s nursing staff.

“It’s a program that Lord Fairfax [Community College] is doing now,” Wilson said, adding that CMAs can “do physicals, they can do IV inserts, they can take blood and they can pretty much do everything.”

Wilson said that certified medical assistants are trained for ambulatory care as well as administrative work, which he indicated is essentially what the jail nursing staff provides.

Wilson noted that he is going to gather more information to present to the authority in the next couple of weeks.

Also on Thursday:

• The authority canceled a closed session for the discussion of the possible inclusion of Page County in the jail partnership. Stanley said they did not have any updates on their talks and added that they are waiting to hear back from Page County.