By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – The Putnam County Commission approved a new health care contract for the jail by a 23-1 vote at its regular monthly meeting Monday night. The contract also required a much-debated budget amendment to fund the measure, which passed unanimously after an hour-long debate.
The contract with Quality Correctional Health Care, Inc. (QCHC) will cover direct costs for services provided to inmatesof the jail, staffing, insurance and administrative costs. Out-of-house services, such as ER visits and CT scans, are not included in the contract.
The budgeted annual amount is $1,167,000 and will be billed to the county monthly. This amount sets medical costs at the jail at approximately $8 per inmate per day which is below the $11-17 national average.
A big variable this contract covers is the staffing cost. Staffing is a big issue with the current nationwide nursing shortage, according to QCHC President Dr. John Bates. Nurses have to be offered premium wages to work in corrections and often their current employer will meet the offer to keep the employee.
Commissioners hope that the addition of RN’s to the staff will reduce out-of-house services. ER visits and other out-of-house services are where the greatest healthcare costs are incurred.
After most of the commissioners had asked questions or voiced opinions about the contract, Commissioner Mike Atwood proposed an amendment that County Executive Randy Porter research the cost of the county providing the services and present the findings to the commission at its April 2019 meeting.That amendment was approved.
Commissioner Theresa Tayes was the lone vote against the health care contract.