Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Change to inmate medical coverage at jail


January 30, 2020

County Sheriff Brett Myers brought before the county commissioners, during their Monday workshop, the status of medical providers for inmates at the jail.

“We are in the middle of medical contract providers for inmates,” Myers said. “Probably about July of last year I got notified that there were some changes going on up at the hospital and the hospital bought out the medical group and we have been in the process of trying to track down an actual doctor.”

According to the county website, inmates at the jail are afforded the opportunity to see a jail doctor each week to discuss medical problems.

An inmate visit with the jail doctor costs the inmate a $4 doctor co-pay per visit. According to the county website, no inmate is ever skipped due to a lack of funds.

Myers said there is currently a physician assistant that helps at the jail, but she has to have a doctor that is over here.

“We haven’t actually had a doctor for this whole month, because Whitman Medical ended Dec. 31,” Myers said. “We are kind of stuck and don’t have too many options. We have to have this in place to honor our other contracts with US Marshall and DOC.”

Myers explained to the commissioners that they were able to find a doctor that is willing to work at the jail, but it will cost more than what was being paid before.

The estimated cost for this new contract will be approximately $1,300-$1,400 more a month to have this doctor.

“The money is probably budgeted for and I’ve spoken with the doctor and our goal is to try and reduce the amount of trips to the ER,” Myers said. “We are going to pay a little more on the front end, we hope to save on the back end.”

Previously, according to Myers, $36,000 was paid a year to Whitman Medical. He estimates that with this new contract, it would run the yearly cost roughly $50,000.

It’s proposed to sign this new doctor on for a two-year contract. Myers said during this time they will watch closely to see how it works out and look at other options if needs be.

“In order to cover his medical malpractice as well as make it worth his time, we sat down and went over it and there is no way around it,” Myers said. “A couple shifts a month in the ER and he makes more than he would make being a doctor for the jail.”

Currently, anything bigger than needing a Tylenol, Advil or a quick check results in a trip to the ER for inmates.

According to the county website, inmates who sign the acknowledgment statement give authorization for the responsible physician or designee at the Whitman County Jail to administer medical examinations and treatment as necessary while they are incarcerated.

“I think the money and the overall professional services contract, it might end up being we need $12,000-$15,000 extra yearly, but it might very well be that if we eliminate seven trips to the ER, there’s $10,000 right there,” Myers said. “It might pay for its own, at least that is what we hope.”

Myers said he hopes this new contract will start Feb. 1.


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