MANATEE -- It will be at least a few more weeks before Manatee County and local hospitals ink contracts to provide care for the county's indigent population.
The Manatee County Commission was to approve new contracts at its Tuesday meeting, but the item was pushed back two weeks for the Nov. 17 meeting, according to an email Karen Windon, deputy county administrator, sent to commissioners Thursday morning.
Hospitals are operating without any contracts.
"As we are still working with the hospitals on the contract language, these won't come to the board for review until the November 17 meeting," the email reads. "While we had hoped to have them on next week's agenda, there are some complications in the hospital billing process that we are working through to ensure transparency and accountability. After the legal teams from the hospitals are finished with their review, we will make these available."
The proposed contracts would be for one year with Manatee Memorial Hospital, MCR Health Services and Blake Medical Center.
The most recent contract expired Sept. 30, making this first time in 30 years Manatee County doesn't have a contract with a hospital to provide indigent health care.
"It is a large concern of mine to not have a contract in place after we've had one for 30 years, and not to know what to tell some of these patients," Kevin DiLallo, CEO of Manatee Healthcare System, which operates Manatee Memorial Hospital, said earlier this month. "We have instability in the health care market in Manatee County at this point."
With the lump sum set aside from the sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital years ago for treating Manatee's needy now nearly depleted, the county has been working toward finding a plan to serve the indigent.
The commission will possibly establish a Manatee County Health Care Advisory Board at its next meeting.
"Our community has always stepped up when the needs are there," Windon said earlier this month. "We all see this as an important issue in our community."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.