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Inmate cardiac care could cost county $100,000

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Man awaiting trial since December 2007 required emergency care

By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner

An emergency medical situation with an inmate at Carroll County Regional Detention Center last week may cost Trimble County Fiscal Court $100,000 or more.

Calvin Sturgill, 45, in inmate at the jail on Clay Street in Carrollton, was taken to the emergency room at Carroll County Memorial Hospital after becoming ill Monday, Nov. 9, according to Carroll County Jailer Mike Humphrey. Sturgill, who suffered a heart attack at the jail, later was flown by medical helicopter to Audubon Hospital in Louisville, Ky., for further treatment.

While at Audubon, he was under the supervision of a deputy Trimble County jailer. During his stay at Audubon, Sturgill was furloughed from jail by Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad, which, effectively, released Sturgill from the custody of the Trimble jailer until the man was released from the hospital on Friday, Nov. 13. He returned to the jail that same day, Humphrey said.

Sturgill of Lockport, Ky., was jailed in December 2007 on charges of incest with a victim under 18 and first-degree sexual abuse; the charges stem from an incident that occurred in Trimble County.

Sturgill is being held on a $50,000 cash bond and is still awaiting trial, Humphrey said.

Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens told Fiscal Court on Monday that because Sturgill is being housed at the jail for an alleged crime that occurred in Trimble, the county is responsible for all of his medical bills up until the time Sturgill was furloughed.

Stevens said he has asked to work out a payment schedule through the courts to pay both hospitals for the medical services. “We will make a reasonable effort to make payments through July, and hope the state can help us then,” when the new fiscal year begins, he said. “But I don’t know for sure.”

The situation is frustrating for several reasons, Stevens said. The situation is frustrating for several reasons, Stevens said.

First, “we are having very tough budget times here, and I fear this is going to result in a hardship on our reserves,” he said, adding that the medical bill could equal as much as 50 percent of the county’s total jail budget. The county budgeted $229,620 in the 2009-10 fiscal year for the jail fund, which includes $150,000 set aside to pay Carroll to house Trimble prisoners. Only $5,000 was budgeted for inmate medical costs.

Stevens also expressed frustration over the court system and the fact that Sturgis has been behind bars – on the county’s dime – for nearly two years. “It’s the biggest mess in the justice system,” he said. It’s his “constitutional right to a speedy trial; that’s not just appropriate for the accused, but also for the public who is paying for the general health and welfare of the accused.”

Finally, Stevens said he is angry because hospitals and other medical providers charge the county the full rate for medical care to inmates. “Why aren’t we billed at Medicare and Medicaid rates? Why, when we’re trying to protect our safety by incarcerating these people, do they charge us retail rates?”

Stevens said counties “have no room to negotiate” these costs. “I’ve got news for the people [at the hospitals] who worked on this guy; they are going to be negotiating.”

Magistrate Nolan Hamilton asked if the county could get health insurance for inmates.

Stevens said it’s possible, but that it would likely be too expensive. “Our inmate population changes” in terms of age, gender and health of individuals because of turnover at the jail as people are arrested, released or transferred to other facilities. An insurance company would “grade us on worst-case scenario” to avoid claims, “but we will certainly inquire about it,” he said.