Arkansas hospital is ending a $400,000 contract with a surgical mask maker that allowed the company to skirt state requirements for masks, according to a state official.
The decision to stop paying the $400k comes as the state faces a state-funded recall election, which could lead to the recall of lawmakers who voted to pay for the cover.
The state Health Department said Friday that the contract was terminated because of the state’s lack of compliance with the mask law.
“The mask company that we had previously paid for was not complying with state mask law,” said Dr. Mark Bunn, the head of the Arkansas Hospital Association.
“It’s been a little while and we’ve gotten a little better and a lot more compliance in the past few months.”
The hospital is still paying the mask company, which has offices in the city of Fort Smith, and is using the money to help pay other costs, including the costs of providing the mask cover to the hospital.
The hospital said in a statement Friday that it would no longer pay the mask maker because it has not received a written assurance from the company that it will continue to comply with the state law.
The company is also seeking to have the state recall legislators who voted for the mask reimbursement, the hospital said.
Bunn said the hospital has not had any problems with the company since it started paying for the covering for its employees.
“We’ve never had any complaints, we’ve never even had any issues,” Bunn told The Associated Press.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve not had problems.”
Bunn also said that while the hospital had not yet been contacted by the mask manufacturer, he expects the mask to be discontinued in the coming weeks.
Bunning said the mask covers will remain on the floor at the Arkansas General Hospital until the recall election.
The mask cover was originally meant to be used for emergencies, but it was not included in the Medicaid-funded hospital’s budget.
The health department estimated the cost of the mask covering at $1,700, and Bunn estimated the mask was costing about $700 a month.
The Associated Post previously reported that the hospital paid $1.5 million for the covers in 2016, and it paid $3.8 million in 2017.
The Arkansas Hospital Group was contracted to provide mask covers for nearly 100,000 Arkansas residents and their families through the Medicaid program.
The cover covers the face and mouth.
The covering was designed to protect patients from the virus that causes SARS, which causes coughing, sore throat, and pneumonia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 200,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with SARS in 2017, and more than 7,500 died.
The masks have been used to help keep patients at home and to protect them from other respiratory illnesses.
Biddings for the masks were scheduled to begin in January, but the hospital announced Friday that those were cancelled because the hospital cannot afford to pay the cost.
The government shutdown means that patients are not getting masks, but some patients are getting masks with the help of other health care providers.
Bidding for the contract will resume at the end of April, Bunn announced.
“If we don’t have mask covers, the mask companies will continue doing what they do and we will be paying for that,” Bynn said.
“But we want to make sure we don.t end up with a situation where we’re paying for a mask cover that we can’t afford.”
Bynnn said the masks cost about $1 a month, but there were no contracts that were up to the $1 million price tag.
The price for the full cover is $3,000 a month for two patients, Bynnt said.