WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is going to have to find a new medical provider starting in January.

Karas Health Care has provided medical services to the Washington County Jail since 2016. WCSO said last Thursday, Karas informed the department it intended to discontinue its contract with the jail.

“Dr. Karas says that medical malpractice insurance for correctional providers has gone up and went up last year so we’ve had these discussions before,” said Sheriff-Elect Jay Cantrell. “They said ‘we can’t afford to do this in our current contract.'”

At the beginning of December, Karas Health Care received a quote for the upcoming year indicating that the cost of malpractice insurance increased from $125,000 to $650,000.

Dr. Robert Karas and his practice are at the center of an ACLU lawsuit claiming he gave people in the jail ivermectin to treat COVID-19 without their knowledge. Cantrell said this lawsuit is not the cause of the increase in the malpractice insurance.

“I think that all of these providers are seeing that, you know, and I think probably COVID is related to that in some form or fashion. But you know, insurance companies have to protect their assets,” he said.

With less than a month left to fill the spot, Justice of the Peace Suki Highers has concerns.

“We don’t have any providers on the line and that is a very quick turnaround to get someone in there to provide medical care for the detainees,” she said.

“Hopefully we can get a qualified provider to bid on it and I’m sure we will,” said Cantrell. “There are providers out there that do jail medical and so I’m certain we’ll get some people that are interested, and then we’ll have to determine what’s the best fit for the county.”

Cantrell said the county plans to open the Request for Proposal process for this contract this week. He said Karas can reapply for the contract with better terms to pay for that insurance increase.

We did reach out to Karas for comment and did not hear back in time for this report.