Medical care for inmates will cost more

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By AMY LINDBLOM

Tuolumne County Jail inmates' medical and dental care is going to cost the county $108,000 more a year.

And if Tuolumne General Hospital has to offer back-up services for the inmates, it will lose money.

Tuolumne County Supervisors last week agreed to continue contracting with California Forensic Medical Group Inc., which has provided services for the past four years.

Not only will the county pay CFMG $567,582 next year to provide a doctor and nurses at the county jail, but the terms are renegotiable, so the cost can increase annually.

And, any inmate who needs emergency treatment while a CFMG doctor or nurse is not on duty must be taken to Tuolumne General Hospital. CFMG will only reimburse 75 percent of TGH's costs. Last fiscal year, Tuolumne General billed CFMG $86,000 for care the hospital provided to jail inmates.

The county's contract with CFMG lasts until 2006. California law mandates inmates receive medical services, and short of the county health department taking over medical care at the jail, no other options were presented to supervisors.

Another possibility would be to contract with TGH, but county Public Health Director Todd Stolp said the financially ailing hospital is not in a position to take on such a contract right now.

In return for the higher fee, CFMG nurses will be on duty 20 hours each day, as opposed to the 16 they were previously on duty. The extra hours will cover the active after-midnight booking hours, Stolp said.

Stolp was the main county health department negotiator for the new contract with CFMG.

"Sixty percent of CFMG's contract increase is needed to cover its own workers' compensation insurance premium," Stolp told the supervisors. "If the workers' comp issue is resolved in Sacramento, then we can renegotiate the contract."

Legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are haggling over the state's $29 billion workers' compensation system, which charges California employers 5.85 percent of their payroll compared to the national average of 2.46 percent.

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The Union Democrat
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