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Superintendent gets authority to continue health services talks

The estimated cost for an agreement with Meritus Medical Center Inc. is $2.7 million to $2.8 million

July 17, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox addresses Washington County Commissioners Tuesday morning to discuss the school health services program.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to give Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox authority to continue negotiating and to finalize an agreement for Meritus Medical Center Inc. to provide health services in schools starting in August.

The estimated cost for the agreement is $2.7 million to $2.8 million, Board Vice President Jacqueline Fischer said in making the motion for the authorization during Tuesday’s afternoon board meeting.

The agreement with Meritus Medical Center Inc. will be for one year, with a possible one-year extension, Wilcox said.

Meritus Medical Center Inc. is a nonprofit corporation of Meritus Health, Meritus Health President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Ross said. The new hospital operates within that corporation, he said.

Meritus will hold a job fair for school health service positions from noon to 6 p.m. on July 23 in Meritus Health Room 122 at Robinwood Medical Center, Wilcox said.

Children’s National Medical Center officials helped Meritus design its school health services program, Ross said. Jesus Cepero, Meritus’ vice president of nursing, used to work for Children’s National Medical Center and knew about its contract to provide school health services forWashington, D.C., public schools, Ross said after the meeting.

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Wilcox said school system officials agreed with a Meritus proposal to have a community group look at the coming school health service program’s results and to reshape the program on a continual basis to better serve students. The group will have representatives from Meritus, the school system and the larger community, he said after the meeting.

School board member Justin Hartings said when school system officials found out little more than a month ago the school system would be responsible for arranging for school health services for the upcoming school year, he found it “sort of hard to imagine how it would come together.”

The shift from Washington County Health Department providing school health services began when the Washington County Commissioners cut $3.3 million in funding for school health services through the health department. The commissioners made the move to free up money to pay for the county’s share of teacher pension costs that are being passed down from the state.

The health department no longer could provide school year health services after it issued layoff notices to its school health service employees as a precaution, and several of those employees ended up taking other jobs this summer, a health department official has said.

The health department is providing health services for summer school.

Anthony Trotta, the school system’s chief legal counsel, said the school board did not have to vote on the contract for summer health services because it was an emergency situation.

The cost of health services for the entire summer school season is $94,527, according to Chief Financial Officer Chris South and a presentation document for Tuesday’s board meeting.

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