FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - Forrest County Supervisors voted on Monday to enter a new contract to provide medical care to inmates in the county jail.
The supervisors approved Southern Health Partners of Tennessee to provide care at the county facilities for an annual cost of $1.176 million.
"It was just an effort by everybody involved to see if we couldn't get some cost reduction and possibly some consolidation services," Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said.
"We need to get away from what we've been doing, this is probably more professional," Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said.
Hogan added that the current platform they are with, Southern Neurologic and Spinal Institute, which expired in October 2016, is on a month-to-month basis. The contract with weekly services provided by Dr. David Lee ran the county $160,000 a year, and another doctor handled the jail's medical calls.
The county will begin the new contract on July 1, and it will run for at least a year.
"We currently have Forrest General helping us with part of it, we have a private doctor that helps us with part of it, and then we have a pharmaceutical company that helps us with the pharmacy cost, so we just trying to get all those services under one roof," Hogan said. "We're hopeful that the citizens of Forrest County will begin to see a reduction in the healthcare cost for the inmates at the Forrest County Jail."
The board based their decision off recommendations by McGee and Forrest General Hospital COO Doug Jones.
"After the board hearing the ins and outs of those proposals the sheriff also agreed with Mr. Jones' recommendations, so the board passed to move forward with hiring the low quote," Hogan said.
The other quote in the discussion was Quality Correctional Health Care of Alabama that submitted a $1.307 million per year proposal.
The new contract has a base proposal of $536,452 and a monthly billing rate of $43,871. The contract also details a $1.25 per inmate per day over the average daily inmate population of 300. Forrest County Sheriff's Department Investigator Nick Calico said the jail currently has 302 inmates.
"This is a company that is well established, this is what they do, they concentrate on is incarcerated inmate care and so hopefully they are going to be able to curtail some of those costs that we're seeing in that regard," Hogan said. "The physicians that come into the facility to provide health care are often susceptible to inmate lawsuits, it's a common thing a lot of these guys are locked up and looking for reasons to file suits."
Hogan said this company will take the burden of that issue.
"It's a little disheartening from sitting in my position to see inmates getting sometimes procedures that we as the general public can't even afford to have," Hogan said.
Hogan added that the county is looking to save money any way they can because finances are needed for other expenses.
"If we see some cost savings, and still sufficient inmate medical care, then I assume the board would see fit to renew it, it's up to a three-year contract but we're only bound by one year at a time," Hogan said.