Pa. Prison To Renegotiate Health Contract
(04/01/2011)

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — With plans to build a county prerelease center no longer on the table, Schuylkill County commissioners gave County Administrator Mark Scarbinsky approval during a recent prison board meeting to renegotiate a multi-year contract between the county and Harrisburg-based Prime Care Medical Inc.

Prime Care provides the medical services at the Schuylkill County Prison, including preliminary health checks for all inmates on being processed into the facility, outside hospitalization and psychiatric and mental healthcare.

The county’s five-year contract with Prime Care expires this month. Prison board members had hoped to contract with the company for just one more year and reassess the prison’s needs at contract’s end, since many of the inmates in the prerelease center would have been on work-release with their own healthcare providers, thus nullifying their need for health services through Prime Care and saving the county money in healthcare costs.

Scarbinsky said the health group charges a monthly rate for up to 240 prisoners and an additional $5 per day charge for each prisoner over 240.

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From May 2010 to the end of March, the county paid about $663,877 - or $55,323 per month - to Prime Care.

Also at the meeting, county President Judge William E. Baldwin recommended and received board approval to enhance the surveillance camera system at the prison.

Baldwin said installing additional cameras was one of the recommendations made by independent prison consultants hired in January to evaluate prison operations.

Most of the consultants report will not be made public for security reasons, Baldwin said.

Scarbinsky said he was not certain how much a camera system enhancement would cost.

The prison board also hired three correctional officers.

Commissioners Chairwoman Mantura M. Gallagher said it received a substantial amount of applications for the positions after it was made public in January that two correctional officers were fired for alleged abuse of inmates. Last September, another correctional officer was fired for allegedly violating the countys sexual harassment policy and another prison regulation.

David Whitman Jr. of Hegins, Kevin Swatt of Valley View and Kim Rodgers of Bethlehem were hired.

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