GATE CITY — The Duffield Regional Jail, which houses inmates from Scott, Wise and Lee counties and the city of Norton, has been a frequent topic of discussion for the Scott County Board of Supervisors.
During Wednesday’s BOS meeting, the topic was brought up again by Roger Carter, chief of Duffield Fire and Rescue. Carter informed the BOS that for the last several weeks, an issue has been occurring with some of the inmates whom the squad transports for medical care.
For inmates with pre-existing or self-inflicted medical conditions, Carter said the jail is not allowing the rescue squad to bill the jail’s insurance for transport costs to medical facilities. This leaves the rescue squad — which is funded by Scott County — to foot the bill for these inmates, even if they aren’t from Scott County.
Addressing the BOS, Carter said, “I’m just checking to see if you all are all right with paying for everybody, because that’s what we’re doing. So if you come out of Wise, Norton or Lee, Scott County’s eating (the cost).”
How has this happened?
Bill Dingus, assistant county administrator and board member of the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority, said the issue is an “unintended consequence” of the jail’s recent decision to pay only for medical issues that occur while an inmate is incarcerated.
Another contributing factor is that the jail does not inform the rescue squad which inmates are from which county, Carter said. Even then, the squad couldn’t legally refuse medical transport for inmates of other counties, since it’s the closest rescue squad to the jail.
Carter added that this decision was made by the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority without consulting the rescue squad about the potential repercussions.
“The gas for fueling the trucks and the medication that we use and all this has got to come from somewhere,” Carter said. “We don’t get any budget from Lee, Norton or Wise, so at the end of the day, it’s coming out of Scott County. Right now they owe us $9,349.60, to be exact.”
Carter reiterated that while Scott County isn’t being directly billed for these costs, the rescue squad is forced to pay the extra expenses from its general fund balance, which is funded by the county.
What can be done?
The BOS voted to send letters to Wise and Lee counties and the city of Norton, informing them that Scott County is paying medical transport costs for their inmates and asking them to take over those expenses.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, BOS Chairman David Redwine said the issue should be addressed at the next meeting of the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority.
“Whether the jail’s sitting in Duffield or it’s sitting in Jonesville and it’s Lee County, it’s not right for the people who have the property to assume the transport of everybody in there,” Redwine said.