Inmates housed at the Plymouth County jail will soon receive health care services from area providers.
Starting in January, Mercy Medical Center, in Sioux City, will be providing nursing and physician services in the jail to an average of 32 inmates annually.
"We have come to a very good agreement with Mercy," said Plymouth County Sheriff Mike Van Otterloo.
The hospital will provide five to six hours of nursing care a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and three to four hours of doctor care on Wednesdays, he said.
Pharmacy medications for inmates will also be provided locally through Le Mars Family Pharmacy, Van Otterloo said.
He said an agreement has been made with Tom Ryan, owner of the Le Mars pharmacy, to start providing those services Jan. 1.
"He's got a good idea of what medications they dispense in the jail and the cost and how they have to be packaged," Van Otterloo said.
For the last three years, Plymouth County contracted with Advanced Correctional Healthcare, in Illinois, to provide health care and medication services at the jail.
That contract ends Dec. 31.
"That relationship is OK. It started out really good," Van Otterloo said. "As we've gone through the three years, the communication line hasn't stayed as open as it maybe should have."
He added that the company struggled to fill the nursing and physician duties required in the contract.
"Not to say they didn't do a good job," Van Otterloo said. "They just found it difficult to have someone come up to do that function in a jail that really for them is a smaller kind of jail."
The company, which also provided inmates' medication, generally offers those services in much larger settings, he said.
The sheriff said he sees positives in contracting with Mercy and Le Mars Family Pharmacy.
"The cost will probably be comparable," he said. "I think if anything it's going to be a little less."
Based on information provided in 2009, the county has been paying $2,417 a month to Advanced Correctional Healthcare in its current three-year contract.
"They (Mercy) will bill us for the actual hours they work whereas (with) Advanced Correctional Healthcare we had a set amount, regardless of those hours," Van Otterloo said.
He explained that a one-year contract has been signed with Mercy and Le Mars Family Pharmacy.
"I'm excited about it," Van Otterloo said. "We're working with local pharmacists."
Last week the sheriff told the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors about the change in companies providing for inmates' medical care.
At that time, Supervisor Jack E. Guenthner said he, too, is "glad to see a local pharmacist."
Van Otterloo said, initially, he was hesitant using local providers because of the volume of medications needed.
"But Tom was right in the ballpark, maybe give or take $300-$400 over the course of the year," Van Otterloo said. "I think it's going to be great."