St. Joseph Co. Council approves plan to hire medical staff for county jail

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It is now crunch time, as St. Joseph County hopes to find medical professionals to fill vacant spots at the jail.

Medical services for inmates were provided by Beacon Health System, but the health care company apparently decided not to renew its contract for 2020, which the county said came as a surprise.

The county then put out a request for new bids, but providers did not step forward.

“We reached out to five other medical providers, and we were unable, in the time frame that we had, to find somebody to come in within the budgeted amount,” St. Joseph County Police Department attorney Troy Warner said.

Warner also said providers were not just asking for more money.

“They also wanted to do more services besides just handling the nursing and the in-house medical. They wanted to do the pharmacy and mental health treatments,” Warner said.

With the new year quickly approaching, the county needed a plan B. It will now hire its own staff, employed by the county.

With a vote of 6-1 at Tuesday night's meeting, the county council approved that plan, allocation of funds for 17 nursing salaries, and the hiring of a nursing manager, clerk and a radiologist.

This comes with about a $1.5 million price tag.

“The day-to-day care of the medical conditions of individuals in our facility is extremely crucial. We have to provide medical care for the people who are housed in our jail. There's no question about that. So, we have to be able to get people that are willing to come in and do that,” Sheriff William Redman said.

Some of these positions will be filled by current Beacon employees and others who wish to apply.

“Most of the staff that is currently employed by Beacon that currently works in the jail does in fact want to stay employed,” Redman said.

The county plans to add two contracted nurse practioners and a physician, which will cost roughly $200,000. That aspect of the plan has yet to be approved

Also passed at Tuesday night’s meeting was a resolution to make St. Joseph County a vote center county.