Probation lifted for Chatham Co. Jail's health provider - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Probation lifted for Chatham Co. Jail's health provider

Chatham County Jail. (Source: WTOC) Chatham County Jail. (Source: WTOC)

The health group contracted to serve the Chatham County Sheriff's Office has been on probation since last summer.

The decision came down from the Medical Association of Georgia when they conducted an audit of the facility after a number of complaints and two inmate deaths since 2014.

WTOC found out Wednesday that their probation period has now been lifted. They are once again fully accredited by the Medical Association of Georgia, but only after they were audited several times over the last couple of months.

The probation issued by the Medical Association of Georgia cited issues with the jail's procedures relating to the death of an inmate - restraint and seclusion - and their continuous quality improvement.

The sheriff says being on probation meant that they could have lost their accreditation at any point but after months of making improvements.

They are no longer on probation and the Medical Association of Georgia and is once again fully accredited.

In a statement from the Corizon Health President Scott Bowers:

"I have every confidence in our people, policies and practices in Chatham County. I want to acknowledge and thank our healthcare professionals for their steadfast dedication to the patients in our care throughout the challenges of the past year."

Corizon has been serving Chatham County for more than 20 years, but that may all change. Chatham County Interim Sheriff Roy Harris announced Wednesday that the Chatham County Sheriff's Office is raising the bar higher than ever as they vet four companies to provide healthcare to inmates.

Corizon Health is also bidding on this contract, like they've done every time they've had to renew it in the last 23 years.

The difference now is they must prove they can meet these new standards that's been set by the county.

"We had to change our intake system, our forms, to more readily identify mental health issues,” said Sheriff Harris.

They were cited for several procedural issues, including how they handled the death of an inmate.

But after eight months of audits, their accreditation has been reinstated. But Corizon's contract ends later this year which means this is the county's chance to revise what they expect from healthcare providers.

"We are upping the ante on this RFP because we are providing different parameters of people we need in that jail,” said Sheriff Harris.

Requiring more psychiatric nurses so that one can be available at all times and allotting more time for a doctor to be at the jail seeing patients.

"We’re having several suicide attempts a week. We have to put them on a special watch, which means more staff is sitting there watching them. They have to be put in a place under total camera surveillance,” said Sheriff Harris.

He believes being short staffed contributed to many of their issues and complaints over the last couple of years. He's not looking to go back so he hopes to find a group that will move forward with their new set of standards. 

A healthcare group will be recommended in a couple of weeks and the county commission will have to sign off on it. 

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