August 20, 2021
By: Dwayne Page
Should nurses be provided around the clock, seven days a week for inmate healthcare at the DeKalb County Jail?
The County ‘s Health, Education & Public Welfare Committee is making that recommendation and the county commission will consider it during the regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Currently the county is under contract with Advanced Correctional Healthcare of Franklin to provide a 12 hour nurse, seven days a week for inmate care at the jail but that deal expires August 31.
Although it will cost more on the front end, Sheriff Patrick Ray is recommending that the county sign on with a new company to provide 24/7 nursing care at the jail. He formally made the request at the Health, Education & Public Welfare Committee meeting on Monday, August 9 and representatives of three companies including Advanced Correctional Healthcare were also there to present proposals for the county to consider.
The committee voted to recommend that the county commission enter into a contract with Fast Access of Chattanooga to provide 24/7 nurses at the jail. The annual cost would be $377,880, which is an increase of $134,223 above what the county currently pays Advanced Correctional Healthcare for providing a 12 hour, seven day a week nurse. Since the 2021-22 county budget has already been adopted, the extra funds needed to pay for this new service, if approved, would be allocated from the county’s fund balance.
Fast Access’ proposal was the least expensive of the three submitted. Advanced Correctional Healthcare offered to provide 24/7 nursing care for $421,679 including $20,000 pool money while Quality Correctional Healthcare presented a plan for $420,348.
During Thursday night’s county commission committee meeting of the whole, Sheriff Ray said the liability risk to the county is too great not to have 24/7 nurses at the jail and in the long run it could save the county money.
“Currently during the 12 hour period when the nurse is not there, our correctional officers have to fix the inmates’ medications, draw insulin out of a bottle, take blood pressures, and do assessments on inmates for the doctors. We are going beyond the scope of what our expertise is as correctional officers at the jail. I am very concerned about the liability of our department taking on medical things. To cover the county, myself, and my department we ask for a 24 hour nurse and while it costs more there will be cost savings later in terms of emergency room visits. A lot of ER visits we make are due to inmate chest pains when the nurse is not there because they (prisoners) know we have to send them to the ER. An average ER bill is now probably $5,000 to $7,000 and if there are any extras the bill goes up from there. We can buy an EKG machine at a discounted rate from them (Fast Access) and let them do the EKGs in the jail instead of having to carry them to the emergency room to do them. I think that will save us some money on ER trips. I also called our insurance carrier for liability insurance and it will save us some money on our premiums next year by having 24 hour nurses,” said Sheriff Ray.
The county commission will meet Monday night, August 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Mike Foster Multi-Purpose Center.