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Medical contract approved for Meade County jail

The Meade County Commission approved a new contract with Sturgis Ambulance Service Wednesday to continue providing routine medical care at the county jail through December 2022.

Previously, the city of Sturgis sent a notice to the county that the ambulance service would no longer provide medical service to the jail. That agreement was set to expire in January 2021, but Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie agreed to a temporary extension of the previous contract until the county found a solution.

Sheriff Ron Merwin began searching for a new medical service provider for the jail and the County Commission authorized Merwin to hire either a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. The commissioners also authorized Merwin to explore options to contract with Pennington County for additional medical services.

None of those options came to fruition. Merwin informed the commissioners earlier in the year that no doctor at Monument Health Sturgis Hospital showed interest, but he did find a doctor at Fort Meade VA Medical Center who was willing to provide short-term assistance.

Additional negotiations were held with the city of Sturgis to continue providing basic medical care for jail inmates and Merwin said a new agreement was reached.

The county's contract with Sturgis ambulance costs $175,000 through Dec. 31, 2022. The initial payment of $50,000 is due by Sept. 30 and the next payment of $25,000 will be due Oct. 1. The county will pay the city of Sturgis $25,000 every three months for the remainder of the contract.

Merwin told the Meade County Commission on Wednesday that the contract was negotiated several months ago.

"We negotiated this back some time ago, and we didn't bring it back in front of you guys to get the formal approval so I can sign this and get on with the city," Merwin said. "Even though this year is almost over, if you read through the agreement it's pretty much what we've always been doing."

The ambulance personnel will provide routine medical care for jail inmates — distribution of medication, emergency care that did not need the attention of a doctor, and vitals checks once a week for inmates after being incarcerated. The ambulance service will also transport inmates to the hospital as needed for further care.

"It addresses our protocol issues and cost-wise, it specifies $175,000," Merwin said. "That's because this is a two-year contract. This year it will be $75,000 and next year we'll go to $100,000."

Merwin said the city wanted $125,000 for 2022 and he negotiated it to the $100,000 level.

"This is a good option for us. It works well for us and for them," he said.

Contact Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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