Health Services At Benton County Jail Could Be Contracted Out - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Health Services At Benton County Jail Could Be Contracted Out

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KENNEWICK, Wash.- Changes are coming to the way inmates at the Benton County jail receive medical treatment.

The Benton County Commissioners voted to approve a motion today. It would allow the sheriff's office to look into contracting out health services for the jail. The Benton County Commissioners were all in agreement, approving the motion unanimously. The county jail is currently somewhat understaffed. They're meeting all the requirements, but nurses have to multi-task and cover more ground.

"We're kind of in a crisis situation where I have to have enough nurses to fulfill my statutory obligations in my jail," explained Sheriff Steve Keane.

Many nurses employed by the county have quit, which leaves more work to be done until a contracted service is chosen.

"Technically it is a better bang for the buck and we're getting more coverage for the same amount of money," said commissioner Shon Small.

One of the plans the commissioners are looking at would extend the medical service hours to 24-7 and it would not cost taxpayers any more than what is already allocated.

"We're trying the best we can to stretch the tax dollars and basically do what is best for the safety, for the liability of the county," explained Small.

The sheriff's office sees the extended coverage as a success.

"I'm very fortunate," said Keane. "I'm looking to getting our jail up to full staff and to get 24 hours nursing which would be a much better service to our community and obviously to our inmates that are in our jails."

The next step for the county is to research which groups would work best to contract health services with. Sheriff Keane says the final decision should be one that works best for the taxpayers, the inmates and the nurses who the county currently employs.