Webre says he was never consulted on jail health care provider vote

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre said Monday he was never consulted on a new health care provider for the parish jail.

“I never expressed any dissatisfaction with the current provider, who we have been using for the past 11 years,” Webre said.

The sheriff commented in the wake the parish council last week, rejecting a bid for health care services from Quality Correctional Health of Birmingham, Ala.

Correct Health of Atlanta, Ga., currently holds the contract.

Webre said the cost of providing health care, food, clothing, and transportation, belongs to the parish council. He said the sheriff’s office is charged with the functional operations of the jail, deputies, and the staff who work inside of the jail.

“If the parish council chooses to seek bids and replace the current provider, with another provider, that is strictly their prerogative. However, the current vendor informed me that the council had gone out for bids, and they were never notified to continue with the contract. Also, I believe they were willing to offer an extension for the rest of the year.”

The sheriff also noted that the parish made a good decision 11 years ago to contract medical care out, as the previous practice before then was to use EMTS with an ambulance service that did not adequately cover the medical needs of the prisoners.

Last Tuesday, the parish council voted 4-3 on a new contract, however it failed for the lack of a majority vote. Those voting against were Councilmen Jerry Jones, Jerry Lafont and Daniel Lorraine. Council members Michael Gros and Luci Sposito were absent.

During the meeting, Councilman Craig Jaccuzzo, who is also campaigning against Webre for his seat this fall, warned council members that the cost could double with the increase capacity at the new jail. Currently, the parish pays an annual $1.2 million to Correct Health.

Councilman Daniel Lorraine however, disagrees with Jaccuzzo, as well as other issues regarding a possible change with the contract.

“First of all, the public is in charge of an increases with this contract. If more people misbehave, of course, increases could occur. If crime is down however, there will be no increases. But the bigger problem I have, is that Sheriff Webre was not even consulted about this contract, and it is he who operates the jail. Since he has been working with them for the past 11 years, wouldn’t you say that he has had no problem with their services?” Lorraine asked. “And another thing, the bid was advertised in the Daily Comet. Who outside of Lafourche Parish, would see this advertisement? The sheriff should have been consulted, and he wasn’t. Period.”

Councilman Jerry Jones, who also voted against switching health care vendors, said the parish administration should not sign any contracts which extend into 2020. He said those tasks should be left for the new parish administration.

“Frankly, I have never had any confidence in anything that Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle has signed, other than the garbage contract, because that was done in the open, and it was a no brainer,” Jones said. “Secondly, if this contract has been working for 11 years, why would anyone want to change it? What is the real reason behind all of this?” he asked.

Lorraine said Cantrelle should only extend what’s necessary until the end of the year.

“Beyond 2019 is unfair for the newly elected persons who seek to lead this parish,” he said. •

Craig Webre