Sheriff: Chatham Co. officials ended inmate health care contract without input

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - For the second time in as many years, inmates at the Chatham County Detention Center will welcome in a new healthcare provider.

On Monday, the Chatham County Commission chose to sever ties with CorrectHealth just a year after inviting them in. Despite the County Commission voting during the last commission meeting to approve a new contract with CorrectHealth, Monday, a change of heart but not a change of tactic.

State law says it's the sheriff who negotiates contracts with jail health providers. But, here in Chatham County, the commission has jumped in and taken on that role.

When the county threatened to terminate the contract with CorrectHealth in July, Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher notified the county manager he might jump in and cut a new deal with CorrectHealth, as state law allows.

County Commission then announced it had renegotiated the deal, only to terminate it two weeks later.

And that's not all. In the release we received Monday, the county attorney states, "...the Chatham County staff, the County Attorney, Sheriff John T. Wilcher, and CorrectHealth mutually decided not to extend or renew."

The sheriff tells me that's a lie. He told the county manager he wanted to keep CorrectHealth and was in no way involved in the negotiations.

Furthermore, the sheriff will not be given the opportunity to find his own healthcare provider, because the county is "...already negotiating a contract with Centurion Healthcare, who will take over responsibility for inmate health."

This release goes on to say the sheriff believes this transition is in the best interest of all to achieve a common goal.

Again, the Sheriff expressed no such sentiment.

Sheriff Wilcher wanted to keep CorrectHealth. He felt they were providing excellent inmate care and so did the latest Medical Association of Georgia review, earlier this year.

Chatham County staff are working with the county attorney to secure a new contract with Centurion Managed Care, who will assume control over inmate health. Centurion is the largest provider for inmate healthcare in the country and currently serves health services to the Coastal State Prison, as well as the State of Florida and Tennessee Prison Systems.

The deal with CorrectHealth now ends on Oct. 27, 2017.

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