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Washington Co. jail doctor who prescribed Ivermectin to inmates steps down

The doctor is reportedly stepping down from that role after a lawsuit earlier this year that states inmates were unknowingly given Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — According to Washington County Sheriff-Elect Jay Cantrell, County Jail Medical Provider Rob Karas is pulling out of his county contract effective Jan. 1, almost a year after being sued for prescribing ivermectin to inmates, allegedly without their consent.

On Monday, the Sheriff-elect informed the Jails/Law Enforcement/Courts Committee that Dr. Rob Karas of Karas Health Care was discontinuing his "contract at the jail based on the fact that they can't get malpractice insurance at a reasonable rate. It's going to go from $125,000 to $650,000 for their medical malpractice insurance."

"They cannot continue to do the service they provide at the rate at which they're charging if their medical malpractice goes up to half a million dollars," he told 5NEWS on Tuesday.

In January, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Dr. Karas, accusing him of prescribing Ivermectin to inmates without their consent. The drug has been approved for use in veterinary cases, but not to treat COVID in humans. Cantrell says the lawsuit is unrelated to the insurance hike. 

"I think malpractice insurance has gone up across the board to providers of correctional medicine," said Cantrell. "Not much different than when a hurricane comes through massive storm damage. And everybody's rates go up to help pay for those massive damages."

Dr. Karas has been the county jail’s provider since 2016. A role the sheriff-elect says has been important through the pandemic.

"750 to 800 detainees here on a daily basis. And so it takes, you know, a pretty dedicated staff of medical providers to provide the medical needs to those detainees," Cantrell said. "Different illnesses can travel pretty fast in a congregate setting... We have to have somebody that can stay on top of it, that's got a good feel for what we're doing. And Dr. Karas has done a great job."

The county is currently working with legal advisors to develop requests and offers for another medical provider to fill the position.

"We have some staffing requirements that we want to be sure that are met, and that we have 24-hour coverage, that there's a medical provider here, either a nurse or a practitioner here, all the time that we have people that can come in and, and dispense medication," Cantrell said.

According to the sheriff-elect, this may not be the end of Karas' time at the county jail.

"He may rebid. Obviously, if he does it, to get the same coverage, it'll be at a higher rate," Cantrell said.

It is also reported that there are no new medical providers lined up for the jail at this moment.

When the lawsuit was originally filed, 5NEWS reached out to Dr. Karas about the lawsuit and his office chose not to comment. 

In the past Dr. Karas told 5NEWS he prescribed the pharmacy grade and not the veterinary grade of Ivermectin.

5NEWS reached out on Tuesday to comment on leaving the county jail but had not heard back.

5NEWS will update this story as more information becomes available.

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