Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has asked the head of Nassau University Medical Center to meet with his staff to negotiate an interim contract for the hospital to provide inmate health care services at the jail.
The appeal is an emergency effort to avert a gap in medical services for jail inmates as the facility’s controversial vendor, Armor Correctional Health Services, battles to exit in a timely manner under its contract.
The development comes after Armor recently went to court seeking a judgment that it won’t have to stay at the East Meadow jail past its May 31 contract end date.
Mangano administration officials have pointed to a contract clause they say shows Armor has to stay longer, if necessary, to help the jail transition to a new permanent medical provider.
Mangano said in an interview Thursday that the interim contract pitch is a “contingency” plan in case Armor leaves at the end of its contract without the county having hired a new vendor. He said the only other option in such a situation to provide continuity of jail medical services would be for correction officials to bring inmates over on a daily basis, and likely multiple times a day, to NUMC’s emergency room.
“We want to be prepared to continue delivering uninterrupted, obviously it can’t be interrupted, health care,” Mangano said. “... We can’t wait until the court decides, so we have moved in this direction, again, in a contingency mode.”
Mangano wouldn’t comment on whether the county still would fight Armor’s plan to leave by May 31st.
In a letter Wednesday to NUMC’s CEO and president, Dr. Victor Politi, Mangano wrote it was “imperative” that the county have an interim measure in place to ensure vital medical services weren’t interrupted.
“Thus, we believe it is prudent to meet immediately to prepare for NUMC to provide interim health care at the jail,” he also wrote.
Before the county struck up a public-private partnership with Armor, NUMC provided the jail’s inmate medical services.
Mangano said officials from the county and the county hospital, located steps from the jail, are scheduled to meet next week. Shelley Lotenberg, a spokeswoman for Politi, said in a statement Thursday that the hospital was awaiting receipt of Mangano’s letter, and would comment after an attorney review of it.
In the meantime, the county has extended its deadline for bids on a new jail medical contract to April 13. However, administration officials wouldn’t say Thursday if the county had received any bids.
Armor’s tenure at the jail has been marked by a series of inmate deaths, and a state oversight agency found it provided deficient care in connection with five inmate deaths since winning a Nassau contract in mid-2011. The company also settled a lawsuit with the state attorney general last year after allegations of a pattern of substandard care. Armor and the county also are fighting federal lawsuits from the families of four of the inmates who have died in jail custody.
County Legislative Minority Party Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) lambasted Mangano’s administration Thursday for failing to find a new jail medical provider months ago.
The administration released an initial request for proposals in March 2016, leading officials to enter contract negotiations with a for-profit Tennessee company in September. But those talks fell apart in February, and the county then issued a new RFP to seek more bids -- this time only from hospitals or their affiliates.
“It’s poor management and it’s poor planning at its best,” Abrahams said. But he added that if NUMC is willing to take on the interim contract, “we should look at and explore it.”