WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (4/15/13) - The Webster County School Board held a special called thirteen minute meeting on Monday night to discuss one issue, the future of the nursing program at the schools in the district.
“The reason we’re having this special called meeting is that we are the last of eight in the Green River Health District to look at this,” said board chairman Jeff Pettit. “The other counties have all declined Green River’s offer. The nurses in those counties are being held up on filing for unemployment until we reach a decision.”
Under this contract Green River provides the district with three Registered Nurses (RNs). An additional nurse at Providence is not affected by the change because she is on a different contract.
On the April 29, 2013 meeting, superintendant Dr. James Kemp presented the board with a letter from the Green River and explained the situation.
Green River, as with other health departments, make up the funds for their school nurse programs by billing Medicaid. Three state-contracted managed care organizations handle the collection of this Medicaid reimbursement. However, in recent years much of this money has gone uncollected.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Dr. Kemp. “It is Green River who was ‘stiff armed.’ Of the three organizations, one was bad and the others weren’t good.”
Without that money, and with an additional loss of some government funding, Green River has had to turn to the schools districts to make up the difference. In Webster County the cost to maintain the three health clinics they have now would go from $20,000 per nurse, or $60,000 per year, to $35,000 per nurse, increasing the total cost to $105,000. This follows a $20,000 increase a year ago.
The alternative offered by Green River was one nurse who, for $45,000 would travel between Clay Elementary, Sebree Elementary and the Dixon campus. This nurse would be unable to provide ‘billable clinical services that are currently delivered,’ Green River said in the letter. This nurse would also coordinate first aid training with the staff at each school.
“I think we all see that we can’t do away with the nurses, but we need to investigate this further,” Pettit told the board. “I just don’t think we can afford $105,000.”
The board voted unanimously to reject the contract offer from Green River, join with Daviess, Henderson, Webster, Union, Hancock, Ohio and McLean counties.
Among other options on the table, one is for the district to employee its own nurses. That is the approach taken by Henderson County. Last week, in expectation of this vote, Dr. Kemp posted advertisements for three nurses in order to test the water. The application deadline will be Monday May 20, 2013, before the next board meeting, when the board will again consider their options.
“Where do we want to go before next Monday’s board meeting?” Dr. Kemp asked the board.
“Continue to gather information and see what kind of applications we get,” Pettit said. “I’m still not sure going with another third party is the best option.”
Green River Health District schools are not the only ones struggling with money issues. There have been reports from across the Commonwealth of similar situations, and several approaches to finding a solution.
According to Jim Warren and Mary Meehan of the Lexington Herald-Leader, Fayette County School District, which currently employees 30 RNs at its 50 schools, is facing an expected $500,000 cut in funding to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. They are looking at a plan that would scale their program back to 13 RNs and about 14 licensed practical nurses.
In Webster County the discussion will continue on Monday May 20, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.
J-E News Editor
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