WTOC Investigates: Is the new inmate health care provider cheaper?

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - As WTOC told you Monday night, Chatham County Commission has chosen to end its relationship with yet another healthcare provider at the Chatham County Detention Center effective next Friday.

We are now being told CorrectHealth, of Atlanta, is done and Centurion, of Florida, is in.

Through an Open Records Request, WTOC received a copy of both the Centurion proposal as well as the emergency contract the county has negotiated with Centurion. And the comparisons are interesting, to say the least.

The county was paying CorrectHealth about $595,000 a month for its healthcare services. That included all ambulance, hospitalization, emergency services and specialists for inmates.

The New Emergency Centurion Contract we received Tuesday is costing just over $503,000 a month but does not include all those hospital services. Those would be a la carte and paid by the county.

Add those up and the results are staggering.

WTOC asked Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher how many inmates require hospitalization in an average year. He told me under CorrectHealth, at least 50 inmates spent a minimum of four days in the hospital.

He had one hospitalized for five full weeks.

At an average of $10,000 a day, that's an added $2.5 million a year. CorrectHealth also incurred nearly $150,000 in ambulance services.

Then there is Centurion's daily charge of $3.74 for every inmate at the jail exceeding 1,800. The sheriff has been averaging 1,850 a day.

That excess fee would add another $70,000 to the county's bill.

How much will it cost taxpayers to trade out healthcare providers at the jail this time? On the surface, it appears Centurion might be a cheaper option.

The fine print may prove otherwise.

WTOC asked the county this morning if the Commission Chairman and County Attorney have signed the emergency contract.  We were told it will be taken up at the commission meeting on Friday.

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