Pierce County Jail changes medical care, cuts 15 jobs

TACOMA — The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has outsourced medical care at the county jail, laying off 15 full-time workers.

Undersheriff Eillen Bisson told The News Tribune that the move will save about $600,000 this year, but providing better equipment and technology — not saving money — were the primary drivers.

The department is paying Maryland-based Conmed Inc. $4.3 million to provide medical services at the jail for the last 11 months of this year. The contract will be renewed annually for the next four years, unless the county or Conmed opts out.

The sheriff has been under pressure to reduce costs to deal with the jail’s declining revenue and population. Both have plunged since January 2013, when Tacoma shifted its misdemeanor bookings to Fife’s jail, where rates are cheaper.

Mental-health services for the jail still will be provided by staff members working for the sheriff.

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