Prisoners’ medical treatments Freeholders eye two concurrent contracts for jail

The impending opening of a new Jersey City Medical Center has created something of a dilemma for the Hudson County freeholders, who scrambled to find an alternative hospital that could provide secure inpatient and outpatient medical care for prisoners at the Hudson County Correctional Center in Kearny.

Jersey City Medical Center’s new facility will not include what is called “a lock-down unit” where prisoners can be brought. Earlier this year, the freeholders sought to find an alternative, contemplating whether or not they might make use of some hospitals in Newark – since downtown Newark is about the same distance from the Kearny jail as the new NJMC is.

Last week, the freeholders were presented with a combination of resolutions to pass. One would continue trauma or acute emergency care with the Jersey City Medical Center, and another would send the rest of the inmates to Barnert Hospital in Paterson.

As part of the agreement, the county would pay Jersey City Medical Center $620,000 next year to supply outpatient, inpatient and emergency room services. Juvenile prisoners from the Juvenile Detention Center in Secaucus would continue to receive full services as of January, 2004, but adults from the Kearny facility would only be treated for emergency and trauma care.

Barnert Hospital will receive $1.1 million to provide full services to adult inmates. The hospital currently has a four-bed locked unit that would permit inmates to be admitted, and it has facilities for police officers.

County Administrator Abe Antun said Barnert Hospital currently has a similar agreement with Essex and Passaic Counties for such services.

“That hospital is only a half hour away from the Correctional Facility,” he said. “And since Essex and Passaic Counties also use the hospital, [prison] director [Ralph] Green has negotiated with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department to provide security for our prisoners while there.”

This, Antun said, would lower the overtime costs to Hudson County. Freeholder Bill O’Dea, who had previously suggested the county seek services from Newark’s University Medical Center, asked if Hudson County had sought other proposals.

Antun said the county had sought full services from other places including the University Medical Center, but none were interested – although he had not asked other hospitals to provide the services currently proposed for the Jersey City Medical Center.

“We wanted to maintain a relationship with the Jersey City Medical Center,” Antun said.

O’Dea was concerned about the cost, saying that the county ought to get the best service for the least, and that this required seeking other proposals.

“I would not like the Jersey City Medical Center to think it had a monopoly on providing medical services to the county,” he said.


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