As school district has been examining ways to reorganize its health delivery model, its school board members voted unanimously on June 2 to retain the equivalent of more than nine nurses for this academic year. The vote came after the school board considered two proposals for health care delivery for the 2011-2012 academic year.
The first proposal was put forward by the district’s ad-hoc committee, which called for retaining the 9.6 full-time equivalent school nurses. This proposal also outlined employing some part-time support staff, which included one full time equivalent and two part time equivalent licensed vocational nurses, and two part-time equivalent health clerks.
Superintendent Tim Cuneo’s proposal included reducing the number of school nurses to nine full time equivalent nurses, and having only full time support staff consisting of one full-time licensed vocational nurse and three full-time health clerks. Both proposals added up to the same total of $1,155,355.
In the end, the board approved 9.6 full time equivalent nurses, leaving it up to the superintendent to specifically determine the number and type of nursing support staff. The superintendent repeatedly defended his proposal’s use of full time nursing support staff by explaining “It is difficult to attract part-time people to work short periods of time.” It’s also harder to supervise them, he said adding that full-time staff could be deployed on a part-time basis at the district’s school sites.
Prior to the vote, former board member and district parent Kelly Pye said the 9.6 full time equivalent nurses should be retained because they will be needed to help train the licensed vocational nurses and the health clerks.
“I don’t see the need to rush to bring health clerks into our system,” said Claudia Landis who was one of the two medical doctors on the ad-hoc committee. “An (licensed vocational nurse) costs about the same as a health clerk.”
The proposals presented backed up Landis’ statement. They showed that a full-time licensed vocational nurses could cost about $55,000 while a full-time health clerk could cost about $47,750.A part-time licensed vocational nurses could cost $17,500 and a part-time health clerk could cost $13,880.
“It’s hard to get part-time people, it may be hard to supervise them as well,” said Jose Escarce, the board president who is also a physician, who summed up the board’s reasoning for retaining the 9.6 full time equivalent nurses and allowing the flexibility for the hiring of support staff. “It may be hard to train them and incorporate them into our district in a meaningful way. If we go with the 9.6 nurses it would be ideal to incorporate one (licensed vocational nurse) and one health clerk because we do need to use … next year to begin to understand the roles of other people. There is no question that in the future we are going to have to move to a system that has fewer registered nurses and other types of health personnel.”
Ad-hoc committee members who spoke also requested that the board create a long-term health care task force that could examine and recommend options that the district could use to provide health care services and health education.
“When resources are scarce the community should work together so that costs are minimized and benefits are maximized,” Leslie Butchko told the board.
The chair of the district advisory committee on health and safety, Pat Knowlin, stressed that, “This issue should be included in the district’s strategic plan. There are a lot of options out there.”