Oregon Prison Nurse Suspended After Malnourished Inmate Left Paralyzed

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Portland, Ore. April 22, 2020 11:05 p.m.

A nurse who works at the Two Rivers Correctional Facility in Umatilla has had her license suspended for 90 days because she neglected care for an inmate at the prison.

The Oregon State Board of Nursing confirmed the suspension of Linda Gruenwald went into effect on April 15.


"Violations included client neglect, failing to follow through with the plan of care, and failing to communicate information regarding a client’s status," a spokeswoman for the nursing board wrote in an email.

In May 2015, Gruenwald ordered Steven Fox, an inmate at Two Rivers, on a liquid diet for six months, according to the nursing board's suspension order.

"Licensee acknowledges that from May 27, 2015, to July 10, 2015, there was a lack of follow up and assessment for the inmate, which lead to a weight loss of 34 pounds," the order states. "Additionally, a decrease in blood pressure and heart rate from lack of nutrition led to a fall on July 10, 2015, that resulted in hospitalization and permanent injury."


A lawsuit filed by Fox's attorney states that he passed out and fell to the floor because he was malnourished. He was taken to the local hospital before being airlifted to Oregon Health and Science University.

"His body was beginning to shut down," the lawsuit states. "At OHSU, Mr. Fox weighed only 172 pounds, down 34 pounds since May 27, 2015, and down 60 pounds total since April 2015. The OHSU records note his malnourished and disheveled appearance."

The fall left Fox paralyzed. He requires a motorized wheelchair to move and 24-hour care.

The lawsuit settled in July 2018, with the state paying out $1.5 million. Gruenwald agreed to the suspension this month, according to a nursing board spokeswoman.

Oregon Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Black said Gruenwald remains employed.

"The findings substantiating the Board’s Order imposing the suspension of Practitioner Gruenwald are unacceptable for the Department of Corrections and will be reviewed in light of the constitutionally mandated healthcare inside our 14 institutions," Black wrote in a statement. "While DOC recognizes the Board’s review and administrative process is derived from its independent authority, its findings will be instructive as the Department proceeds with the administrative employment action, which includes the legal and contractual requirements for represented public employees."

More than 14,500 inmates are in DOC custody. Black said DOC is committed to high standards of physical and mental health care all in its custody.