WTOC Investigates: Questions remain over new inmate health care contract

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - We've been exposing all of the details we can get our hands on through Open Records Requests, the Chatham County Sheriff's Office, and other contacts all week long.

After all, we're talking about the care for thousands of inmates and the spending of millions of your tax dollars.

Though the Chatham County Commission Chairman, Manager, and Attorney have yet to issue a single statement, utter and single word or respond to a single request about their plan, the Detention Center is now bracing for the impacts of what they call a potential disaster in the making.

The plan is to kick CorrectHealth and its founder Dr. Carlo Musso out of the jail by next Friday and move Centurion Health out of Florida in.

"There's nothing about any of this that's an emergency. I've spoken to Dr. Musso and he's willing to stay 60 or 90 days if this is what the county wants to do. I think if you do this, this quick you're going to make a lot of mistakes and a lot of things are going to come up that the county is not going to be wanting to see or hear," Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher said.

In fact, when CorrectHealth took over at the jail last year after Corizon's contract was canceled, the transition took months.

The county chairman and attorney claim this transition is an emergency yet have never explained why. The sheriff insists CorrectHealth has done a great job with inmate care.

No bids were put out for a new healthcare contractor and this county has no experience with the one chosen. So, who has put themselves in charge of this decision?

When asked if the idea at Friday's Chatham County Council meeting is going to be to vote to agree to this new health care provider, the sheriff responded, "I think that you will see a bunch of sparks tomorrow from the county commissioners because I've talked to several of them and they knew nothing about this going on."

The sheriff's lawyers sent a letter to the county attorney demanding answers, specifically to the question every taxpayer should be asking: "…explain the true and total costs that Centurion will be billing the county. The figures we're hearing – close to $10 million."

Centurion officials did finally get a tour of the jail on Wednesday. During that tour, they made it clear to the sheriff's command staff that they will need to cherry-pick CorrectHealth of its employees to be able to make the new contract work.

Jail Policy Director Todd Freesemann gave that tour.

"I think there's a lot of risk in trying to do this in a week. I mean it's a very complex operation back there with the number of inmates that come in here every day and what the healthcare challenge is," Freesemann said.

"I think the people of this county need to be told up front what is going on, how it's being done, don't avoid the questions, don't avoid the answers, and tell the community what's going on. Be truthful with them. That's all I ask," Sheriff Wilcher said.

The county was asked again for comment or even a written statement on the move they are about to make, the costs and the potential for a costly mistake such a quick transition could invite.

No response.

Several commission members were asked about the decision to replace the jail health care provider. They know nothing about it.

Remember, the chairman's plan is to ask the entire board to vote on this Friday morning.

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