County renews contract for inmate health care…but not without issue

Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Butler County Commission has renewed its contract with Quality Correctional Health Care, the entity that provides in-house medical care to prisoners at the Butler County Correctional Facility. But at least one commissioner wasn’t happy with the measure being put to a vote on Monday.

Commissioner Frank Hickman (Dist. 3) had an issue with what the county is being charged with QCHC, and also expressed his displeasure with the company’s CEO, Dr. Johnny Bates, for not being present to answer questions about those charges.

“The quality of healthcare and the quality of service is not an issue here,” said Hickman. “I’m very pleased with the results…but I think the rate we are being charged is worth talking about. I would like for Dr. Bates to have explained to us what his rate schedule is.”

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The commission contracted with QCHC last year in order to cut down on the number of trips inmates were making to the hospital. QCHC provides an in-house health care professional to assist prisoners who are sick or in need of medical attention. The county agreed to pay $90,000 with the city of Greenville paying an additional $30,000 as part of the agreement.

According to Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams (Dist. 2) the service has been beneficial. McWilliams said, to his knowledge, only two prisoners had been transported to the hospital in the last year. Prior to the contract, the county transported at least one prisoner to the hospital a week, he said. Sheriff Kenny Harden also voiced his support of the contract.

But Hickman argued there should be a reduction in the rate QCHS charges because the rate is based on a 90-inmate occupancy, which is maximum capacity at the jail.

Harden said the jail’s average daily occupancy was between 50 and 55 inmates over the last year.

Commissioner Jimmy Crum (Dist. 4) saw no way around not paying the rate set by QCHC, especially with other counties doing so. QCHS, founded in 2005, provides inmate care for surrounding counties like Montgomery and Lowndes.

“I just don’t think Butler County would be able to negotiate a different rate on a contract,” said Crum.

The vote ultimately passed unanimously.

Hickman said he voted yes because he felt the service saved taxpayers money.

But he said he still wished he could have had his questions answered.

Commissioner Lynn Harold Watson (Dist. 5) agreed.

“Frank brought this up two months ago and I think if a commissioner wants to talk to Dr. Bates he should be here,” said Watson.