FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center will provide inmate medical care at San Juan County detention centers starting on Monday.

The county will pay the hospital about $1.5 million a year for hospital staff to treat inmates, according to county documents. About 20 people, mostly registered nurses and emergency medical technicians, will work at the adult and juvenile detention centers and alternative sentencing programs. The majority of the work will be at the adult jail.

There are also up to $210,000 in one-time costs this year as the detention centers transition to a different provider, said Mike Stark, the county operations officer.

Nurse Ramona Howard treats an inmate on Tuesday at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington.
Nurse Ramona Howard treats an inmate on Tuesday at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

The agreement is one of the largest contracts San Juan County has with another business, second only to the contract the county has with San Juan Regional Medical Center Emergency Medical Services for ambulance services, Stark said.

Dr. Eric Ketcham will be the medical director, and his wife, Cindy Ketcham, will be the director of nursing for the program.

For the past 10 years, the county contracted with Correctional Healthcare Companies, a Denver-area company, for medical services at the detention centers. The company canceled its contract late last year.

The county paid Correctional Healthcare Companies about $1.5 million a year for inmate medical service. The company backed out of the contract because of the rising cost of health care, the company's executive vice president and chief operations officer, Don Houston, previously said.

The company submitted another proposal for inmate medical care at the county's detention centers and alternative sentencing that was worth about $2.4 million, Stark said.

County officials said San Juan Regional Medical Center was the lowest bid between three companies, including Correctional Healthcare Companies, that applied for the contract.

County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said in a prepared statement that "this contract keeps locally generated tax dollars and jobs within San Juan County, which is always a benefit to our community."

Nurse Ramona Howard talks with an inmate on Tuesday at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington.
Nurse Ramona Howard talks with an inmate on Tuesday at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

Medical staff are at the jail at all times. That includes at least one person to process incoming inmates and another to treat them, said Tom Dean, San Juan Regional Medical Center chief administrative officer.

Dean said there will be about 16 full-time staffers at the adult jail.

There will be a registered nurse at the juvenile detention every day. There will be registered nurse at the alternative sentencing complex on weekdays and an EMT on the weekends during the day, Dean said.

The contract between the medical center and the county only covers medical care provided at the jail, Stark said.

If an inmate needs an ambulance or other specialty care while in custody, the jail medical staff arranges transportation.

The county has to pay for all medical procedures that detention center inmates need while in custody.

Indigent funds, which come from a gross receipts tax, cover certain procedures. The remaining cost for inmate medical procedures comes from the county's general fund. In the 2014 fiscal year, the county spent $562,000 on medical care for inmates outside of the detention center, Stark said.

San Juan Regional Medical Center staff won't be responsible for the inmates' mental health care.

The county is currently finalizing a contract with Presbyterian Medical Services in Farmington for mental health services at the jail. Those services will cost about $485,000, Stark said.

The country previously contracted with Correctional Healthcare Companies to provide mental health care. It was a separate contract worth about $500,000.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.