After having provided nursing services at the Washington County Jail for about 20 years it appears Marietta Memorial Hospital will soon stop providing the services due to Sheriff Larry Mincks' goal to increase the amount of time medical care is provided at the jail each week.
Mincks recently asked the Washington County Commissioners for permission to advertise publicly for sealed proposals to provide paramedic services at the jail 84 hours a week. He said he expects the new proposal to cost less per hour but more overall.
He said the jail is currently operating on a month-to-month contract with the hospital for nursing services but he has a desire to utilize the services of paramedics at the jail instead.
He said $48,000 is paid annually for the nursing services. Although nurses only work at the jail 15 hours a week they are paid for 18 hours, he said, because they do things off site such as medical record keeping.
"Right now we have nurses that come in three hours a day Monday through Friday and a doctor comes in Monday, Wednesday and Friday to do sick calls," Mincks explained. "What we're interested in doing is increasing the medical services at the jail to 84 hours a week. Marietta Memorial Hospital, we talked to them about that and they were unable to find enough nurses to handle that, especially on the weekends."
Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System, acknowledged that the hospital is unable to provide nursing services 84 hours a week simply because the nurses are needed at the hospital.
Jail medical services:
Currently nurses from Marietta Memorial Hospital provide nursing services at the Washington County Jail three hours a day Monday through Friday and a doctor provides services there Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The contract for nursing services totals $48,000 a year while the contract for physician services totals about $18,000 a year.
Sheriff Larry Mincks would like for there to be paramedics at the jail from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily instead of nurses being there a few hours a day. He wants the paramedics to provide medical services as needed and relieve corrections officers of medication disbursement duties.
"Our core business is providing care to patients here, not off site," Offenberger said. "We've said we'll be happy to continue to work with the jail and help them through the transition. We want to it to be smooth and safe and want to be sure there's good health coverage and nursing staff provided."
Mincks said he would like for there to be paramedics at the jail from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. He said he hasn't solicited for proposals yet because he has been dealing with the aftermath of the June 29 storm which left thousands of county residents without power.
Mincks said he thinks having paramedics at the jail 84 hours a week would be beneficial because there would be someone there to do an evaluation right away if an inmate were to experience a medical emergency.
"Our lieutenant in charge of the shift, if something happens to an inmate he calls the doctor we have on standby and the doctor will say transport him to the ER," Mincks said. "If we have paramedics over there we feel we could provide better service to the inmates."
Mincks added that corrections officers currently pass out medication at the jail but he would like paramedics to relieve correction officers of those duties.
"Paramedics are familiar with medication," he said. "This will help guarantee we don't have over-medication, under-medication or (disbursement of) wrong medication."
He said the change has nothing do with the case involving former Washington County Jail administrator Dean Ketelsen, who was found not guilty in March of two felony counts of theft surrounding more than 1,400 missing Tramadol pills from inmates at the jail.
"This has been in the works quite some time," Mincks said. "We were trying to relieve the corrections officers to have more time to do what they need to do."
Mincks noted that Dr. Edward Tappel currently serves as the jail's medical director but he is leaving the position at the end of August to devote more time to his private practice.
Mincks said he has chosen a physician to fill the position but he would not release that person's name because a contract has not yet been signed.
"The medical director will be overseeing the paramedics," Mincks said.