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Health department, school board in spat over nurse program

December 18, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

Health department, school board in spat over nurse program



CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A controversy is brewing over which agency will provide nurses to public schools in Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County Health Department has historically overseen the employment of nine nurses who work in schools, but now the agency wants out of the program.

James Hecker, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Health, said the system is "seriously flawed" for several reasons and he wants the Jefferson County Board of Education to take it over.

The nurses get direction from both the health department and the schools they are assigned to, which makes the program "unwieldy," Hecker said.

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It is also tough for the health department to run the program because the health department and the school system operate on separate schedules, Hecker said.

The health department is trying to branch out into new programs that deal with communicable and contagious diseases, and it will have problems successfully launching those programs if it has to worry about the school nurse program, Hecker said.

"We should not be distracted from these things ... from our mission," Hecker said Monday.

Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools David W. Markoe said he does not believe the school system should be involved in nursing.

"They are in the health care business. The school system is not," Markoe said.

Markoe said he is prepared to make several changes in the program in hopes of making it easier for the health department to manage.

First, Markoe said principals will be instructed not to supervise nurses while they are in school. Second, Markoe said he would be willing to work out a plan in which the schools and the nurses would be on the same calendar.

School officials have also expressed concern about the cost of the program if they have to run it, projecting they would have to drop two nurses from the program if the school system manages it.

The Board of Health is expected to discuss the issue again at a meeting Jan. 5. "And I'm going to force a vote on it," Hecker said.

School nurses adminster medication and offer other medical assistance to students, Hecker said.

The school nurse program in Berkeley County Schools is run solely by the Board of Education there, Hecker added.

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