Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center is discontinuing its services to Harrison County inmates.
County officials approved on Wednesday two new agreements that would provide medical treatment to inmates when needed.
“Marshall Regional, Good Shepherd, now Christus, they’ve been providing that for us,” Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said. “They’re no longer going to do that at the end of June; so we, as a county, needed to get someone else to treat our inmates.”
The Harrison County Commissioners Court approved an agreement with local nurse practitioner Jennifer Roth.
“She is a nurse practitioner and very capable and able to perform not only medical services, but psychiatric evaluations,” Sims said.
Roth provided a proposal of two options, which called for the payment of $800 a week or $85 per inmate. Judge Sims said after conferring with the county’s purchasing agent, Kendl Russell, as well as the jail staff, they decided the $85 per inmate would be best.
Russell said the jail nurse, Paula Mooty, informed that they usually average about six inmates that need treatment per week.
“(She said) sometimes 10, but that’s very rare,” Russell said. “...There are also times that we could have 12; but I feel like we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot in the long run if we did $800 a week.”
In addition to the agreement with Roth, the court also approved an agreement with The University of Texas Medical Branch Correctional Managed Care at Galveston (UTMB) to serve as the nurse practitioner’s backup in her absence.
“University of Texas Medical Branch offers telemedicine services where inmates can be viewed via video teleconferencing and diagnosed, treated,” Sims said, noting Texas Medical Branch does this for many county and city jails all over the state. “If Mrs. Roth is out, unavailable, we’ll have a very easy backup here.”
Because there is no minimum charge, the county will only pay UTMB when they use them.
The contract calls for the county to pay $220 per hour with just a general physician; $242 per hour for a psychiatrist; $132 per hour for a mid-level practitioner; and $142 per hour for a mid-level psychiatric practitioner.
“They offer not just the medical but psychiatric services as well,” Sims said. “It seems like this would be a great backup for us, so that if we have patients that need treatment, we’ll have that available to us.”
The county judge explained that the services offered by the hospital were provided through a “gentleman’s agreement” whereas the county’s sheriff’s department furnished a deputy to work in the hospital’s emergency room during the week in exchange for the hospital furnishing either a physician or physician assistant to examine the county’s inmates once a week.
“There was no charge for our services and no charge for theirs,” Sims said.
He explained that the services offered by the county were no longer needed, however, when Christus purchased the hospital because they had their own security team.
Additionally, when they realized that the gentleman’s agreement included the voluntarily services of a physician, the hospital could no longer offer such services.
“It’s not like they’re cutting us off, being mean or upset or not servicing us,” Judge Sims said. “That’s not the case at all... It was simply kind of a change with the way they managed their business... We’ve been getting a good deal from them and they were getting a good deal from us. Not all good deals last forever.”
Sims said the hospital explained that they wouldn’t mind continuing the service, but providing inmate medical care hasn’t been Christus’s practice. Roth offered her services — with Sims noting her office is right across the street from the jail. He also noted UTMB offers inmate medical services all the time.
“I think we’re in good shape with taking care of our inmates,” Sims said.