Tonawanda News

Local News

December 6, 2012

Jail medical unit going 'private'

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — The transition to private medical care for inmates of Niagara County Jail should be completed by mid-month.

Armor Correctional Health Services, a Miami-based medical services company, is set to take over the jail medical unit Dec. 16, Sheriff James Voutour said this week.

That means Dec. 15 is the last day of work for seven county-employed registered and licensed practical nurses at the jail.

Some, but not all, of those nurses will stay on as employees of ACHS. According to Voutour, the company hired three of the seven after interviews with nurses who applied. To complete its staff roster, Armor passed over some present county employees and hired from the outside.

All laid-off nurses are being offered a severance package that includes 3 1/2 months of county-paid health insurance and 100 percent buyback of unspent vacation, personal and sick days, human resources Director Peter Lopes said.

The standard severance package for laid-off county employees includes health coverage for two months after the month in which they're terminated. After consultation with Voutour and a representative of the nurses' union, CSEA, Lopes said the county agreed to offer the nurses an extra month of paid health coverage.

They hope the offer discourages nurses from quitting — and potentially leaving the jail medical unit understaffed — before Armor takes over.

"It's everybody's hope, through careful planning, that the transition will go smoothly," Lopes said.

A nurse who didn't get hired by Armor recently complained to the newspaper, charging the county's process for handing off jail medical work was not fair or transparent.

The nurse, who declined to give her name, claimed top officials at the jail did not keep the nursing staff apprised of privatization talks — they learned from the media that their jobs were being cut, she said; and also claimed officials falsely promised nurses that ACHS would hire all of them.

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