WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Washington County jail has accepted a bid for another contract with Karas Health Care. At the beginning of December, the provider announced it was canceling its contract, which would end on January 1.

Karas came in with the lowest bid at $2,225,000. The next highest bid was Turn Key Health Clinics with $2,357,165.

Sheriff-elect Jay Cantrell said Karas was canceling its contract due to issues with affording malpractice insurance. It was set to increase by $525,000.

That malpractice insurance was required for the bid, and Cantrell said Karas had it. He was semi-surprised to see that Karas put in another bid.

The incoming sheriff said he’s glad they did. According to Cantrell, there have been over 2,000 cases of COVID-19 in the jail since March of 2021, and only one person had to go to the hospital.

“We feel very fortunate that we’ve had the medical provider that we have. They’ve done a great job with the detainees and our employee health,” said Cantrell.

Karas Health Care is being sued by the ACLU by inmates who claimed the provider gave them ivermectin to treat COVID-19 without their knowledge. Cantrell said no pending lawsuits went into the decision-making process for the bid.

“I’m certain these other companies may not have lawsuits from the ACLU, but they’ve got pending lawsuits too. That’s just the nature of jail medicine,” said Cantrell.

The Washington County judge will have to sign off on the contract, and the quorum court will have to approve the extra money that will be going toward Karas.

Washington County Justice of the Peace-elect, Beth Coger, said she would have liked to see another medical provider come in to assist the jail.

“We’ve been pushing every year since 2019 for the county to bid on that contract. It hasn’t been bid on publicly since 2015,” said Coger.

Coger was disappointed with the short amount of time allowed for providers to submit bids.

“No reputable company could come in and really submit a bid that would be realistic in that time period. Then, for it to have to take effect and be ready to go on January 1. I mean, today’s the 30th. That’s crazy,” said Coger.

Coger also works with the Justice Reform Coalition. She said the group is contacted a lot by people in the jail discussing the lack of healthcare access, and she wants to look into the practices moving forward.

“I want to be sure that we’re getting the services that we are paying for under the contract. So, I’m going to push for that to find out about that. The contract calls for reports, and I’m going to make sure that we get those reports going forward,” said Coger.

She wants more discussion with the quorum court on these matters moving forward.

“I want the court to make sure the taxpayers are getting the best services and what they’re paying for,” said Coger.