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Phoebe to take over jail medical services

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission will likely accept a bid proposal by Phoebe Health System, the parent entity of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, to provide medical services to jail inmates.

Phoebe currently provides in-hospital care as needed to inmates free-of-charge to the county, which the latest hospital audit shows is worth a value of more than $1 million.

Monday, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick and Senior Vice President for Physician Practices Robert LaGesse, were on hand to talk to commissioners about their $1.4 million bid to take over inmate medical care at the Dougherty County Jail.

Col. John Ostrander, jail administrator, told the commission that the Phoebe recommendation came not only because they were a local vendor, but because of the potential to reduce costs.

"We definitely see this an opportunity to realize possible cost savings in many different areas," Ostrander said.

One of the areas where there could be a significant savings is through Phoebe's ability to buy relatively cheap prescription drugs, LaGesse said.

"As a member of the network of community hospitals program, we have access to a program called 340B, and, without getting into a lot of technical aspects of this, it's a program that allows us to buy drugs at below average wholesale rate," LaGesse said. "As long as we're providing the direct services or one of our partners is providing direct services, we can pass those savings along through this jail contract."

Those savings could be around 30 percent or up to $100,000, and were not factored into Phoebe's bid proposal, officials say.

The program, which will begin July 1 if approved, will allow largely for in-jail medical care.

In his comments to the commission, Wernick thanked them for their favorable consideration, saying he's grateful to have the opportunity to help the county during tough financial times and provide a level of cost savings.

Phoebe was the middle of three bidders on the proposal. The jail's current vendor, Prison Health Services, was the lowest on the list while a company called Correct Health was at the top.