By Erin Eschels
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer
With the recent addition of electronic records, the medical program at the Ingham County Jail is looking to be upgraded to supply the best health care for the more affordable cost. Chief operating officer of the Community Health Care Services Barb Mastin said the installation of the electronic health records has worked out great for the program.
“It is so much easier to look up and find the records of each person. It is really simple to store and organize them,” said Mastin. “Also with transfers, for example, it is so easy to send files and see exactly what is needed for each person.”
Along with the addition, the Jail Medical Program has been able to cut expenses by 40 percent of their $1.454 million budget. This change includes the 50 percent in pharmaceutical savings due to a new policy where drugs will be picked up locally and delivered to the jail.
The program still faces problems dealing with all-day care and transportation.
The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office took over the program on Jan. 7, 2007, with the idea to provide 24/7 health care. It has five registered nurses, one licensed practical nurse, two medical assistants, and a senior, lead nurse on staff. The medical program also includes dentists four days a week. Michigan State nursing students also contribute to the program Monday through Friday for 40 hours a week. The staff works on a rotation cycle and also for on-call shifts after hours.
“The problem is that we aren’t exactly meeting the 24/7, 365 days policy,” said Krista Haven, the clinic supervisor. “We average over 11,000 medical hours a year, which is good, but the ‘full coverage’ isn’t necessarily true.”
The Jail Medical Program is also looking to reduce the amount of inmates’ travel for medical reasons. Ingham County Jail Corrections Maj. Sam Davis suggested to the Board of Commissioners that some health care could be provided in-house. Davis said there is some room in the jail that could be a medical wing. Currently, inmates with medical emergencies are transported to either McLaren Greater Lansing Hospital or Sparrow Hospital.
“We are still sending lots [of prisoners] out. Safety is most important here and it’s problematic when inmates get to go out,” said Davis. “They are very good at working the system to their advantage. Suddenly all the patients have chest pains.”
To solve these issues, Mastin said the medical program must hire more staff, particularly vendors whose sole purpose is jail health care, to begin treating more patients within the jail.
“There are a lot of layers for addition to begin in-house treatments,” said Haven. “It will be a heavy cost upfront, but it will get less later on, with great benefits.”
It has been up for discussion where the jail health category falls within the community; the Sheriff’s Office or the Health Department. While the county commission continues to review this gray area, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to improve the current Jail Medical Program and strive to serve to the community with the greatest efficiency.