Audit of jails finds contractor shortfall

Medical services provider owes county for shortages in staff, county contends

Anne Arundel

October 29, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County auditor has concluded that the medical services contractor at two detention facilities has shortchanged the county by at least $27,655 over the past three years.

The Oct. 15 audit, obtained yesterday through a public records request by The Sun, also says that the county does not adequately monitor the contractor.

Auditor Teresa Sutherland reviewed the county's internal accounting and administrative controls on its contracts with Correctional Medical Services, the St. Louis-based company responsible for providing medical care for inmates at the county's two jails.

Since the county's contract with CMS began in October 2000, it has paid the company more than $8.4 million to care for an average of 960 inmates a month at the Jennifer Road and Ordnance Road detention centers.

Ken Fields, a spokesman for CMS, said he has not seen the auditor's report, but he characterized the company's relationship with the county as a positive one.

"We're obviously interested in working to address any questions the county may have," said Fields, "and doing so quickly."

The auditor's findings appear to be rooted largely in the medical company's staffing of the jails.

When CMS fails to provide a minimum of 35.3 full-time medical and support staff, it must pay the county for the missed shifts, according to Richard J. Baker, superintendent of the detention facilities.

But during a one-month compliance test the auditor conducted in last November, CMS reimbursed the county $11,700 less than it should have for penalties incurred from its employees missing their shifts, according to the audit.

The auditor's office said this might have occurred in other months as well, possibly costing the county thousands of dollars more in missed payments.

Also, the auditor found, CMS has underpaid the county by about $10,300 from October 2000 through June 30 this year because it has not adjusted the rates it uses to reimburse the county for missed shifts to reflect cost-of-living and nursing salary increases.

The county also overpaid the contractor $5,655 because CMS failed to pay as much of the deductibles for inmates' emergency care as stipulated in the contract, according to the audit.

Baker said that the county has a good relationship with CMS and that the Office of Detention Facilities "will try to be as fair as possible, but still get the money and services it is entitled to" when approaching the contractor with the findings of the audit.

Baker said his office began an audit after learning of Sutherland's findings. He said he believes the contractor will pay the county any money that it is owed.

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