Sheriff Thomas Lorey wants to privatize the medical care at the Fulton County Jail, but county supervisors want more information before supporting such a move.
Lorey made a presentation Monday to the Public Safety Committee of the Board of Supervisors. He said he wants the county to put out a request for proposals from private companies to take over the medical care of the inmates at the county’s correctional facility.
“What I’m trying to do is get out of the medical business, which I don’t think we belong in in the first place,” Lorey said.
The sheriff told supervisors the county could reduce its liability from lawsuits by privatizing medical care.
In December, Fulton County settled a lawsuit with Thomas R. Rachon of Canajoharie, a former jail inmate who claimed county medical staff did not diagnose or treat cancer in his right arm. The county agreed to pay Rachon $550,000.
“People are always going to go after the deep pockets and they probably would’ve sued the county on a secondary level, but I don’t think the county would have had to take the hit that it did [with Rachon],” Lorey said.
Fulton County currently provides nursing coverage at the corrections facility Monday through Friday for two eight-hour shifts per day and no coverage on the weekends. The county pays a doctor to attend to prisoners one hour per day three days a week. “That leaves medical decisions being made by corrections officers with no medical training eight hours a day and 24 hours a day during the weekends,” Lorey said.
The Sheriff’s Department provided supervisors with a rough cost estimate for jail medical care — $401,000 per year — but that estimate didn’t include the cost of hospitalizing inmates at private hospitals or some of the county employees’ benefits. The estimated cost of hiring a private company to provide the care, including two shifts of nurses seven days a week and a physician three days per week, is approximately $550,000.
Fulton County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Greg Fagan said Lorey will need to provide supervisors with a more detailed breakdown of costs before the board will consider voting on a resolution to put out an RFP.
“He’s saying this could save us money, but then these numbers seem to show it would cost more. We need more information,” Fagan said.
Lorey said he plans to provide supervisors with a more detailed breakdown of all of the costs to the county of providing medical care for prisoners. He said he expects the final figures will show privatization will be cheaper.
The board’s Personnel Committee discussed the issue Wednesday but decided not to support a resolution calling for an RFP without more information from Lorey.
Fulton County is also considering privatizing its nursing home and its visiting nurse service.
Fagan said the different privatization discussions are not part of a trend because they are being considered for different reasons.
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Categories: Schenectady County