Spokane FD cuts medical service to jail

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by KREM.com & Hayley Guenthner

KREM.com

Posted on February 3, 2013 at 10:45 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 4 at 12:42 AM

SPOKANE COUNTY -- The Spokane County Jail has its own medical facility, and spent more than $4 million last year on medical expenses for inmates, yet the Spokane Fire Department is still being called to the jail for medical calls, putting strain on an already stretched thin budget.

The fire department is cutting back wherever it can, but some addresses just keep requiring its service and your tax dollars.

21,000 to 32,000 inmates come through the Spokane County Jail each year.

When some of them are booked, it is the first time they have received medical care in years, staff said.

There are medical personnel in the jail who can treat the inmates -- but only to a certain level. Medical needs that exceed the level of car jail staff can provide, are transferred to the hospital.

Spokane Fire is called to the County campus an average of three times a day, for ailments ranging form diabetic emergencies to falls. Until recently the department also came for blood draws, testing DUI or drug suspects before they are booked into jail.

Not anymore.

Fire officials said due to  budget constraints, they can no longer handle blood draw service.

It costs about $300 each time an engine is rolled out, so eliminating any call is a big help, authorities said.

However, the majority of the medical calls the fire department responds to at the jail and surrounding buildings are emergencies and will continue to be paid for by tax payers.   

Jail officials said relying on fire resources is cheaper than hiring more doctors and purchasing equipment needed for medical calls.

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