The St. Gabriel Health Clinic has forwarded to the Iberville Parish School Board a draft of an agreement outlining the functions of two school-based health clinics in the hope the board would discuss the matter at its meeting Monday.
However, Assistant District Attorney Scott Stassi, who is representing the School Board in its ongoing negotiations with the nonprofit health clinic, said the board doesn’t intend to make a decision about a possible agreement, called a memorandum of understanding, over the clinic’s presence at its schools until May.
Stassi also said the clinic’s attorney prematurely forwarded copies of the proposed agreement to board members.
“Myself and the attorney are supposed to be working on the issue; we’re going to take a look at this document and see if we can merge their ideas with our own,” he said Monday afternoon. “The School Board and I want to look at our options and see if we can come together.”
The clinic’s CEO, Victor Kirk, announced in a news release late Friday that they had released the draft of a new agreement in advance of the board’s meeting to allow time for the board to publicly discuss the proposal before it takes action in May.
“We want to make sure the process is very transparent and that both parties have ample time to discuss and clarify any issues, so that the best agreement possible is put into action,” Kirk said. “As part of that process, we would also like to hold a public forum for parents to learn more about our clinics, what services we provide, and how they can sign up their children for the health care services available to them.”
Parental dissension over the health clinic’s role at East Iberville School and the Math, Science and Arts Academy-East campus has been at the heart of the School Board’s recent fallout with the St. Gabriel Health Clinic.
“Some parents are outdone with the way things are being done, but you have some parents that like it and see it as a vital service,” Stassi said. “We as a board have to come up with a document that works for everyone.”
The St. Gabriel Health Clinic, which has served the health care needs of underprivileged East Iberville residents for more than 20 years, was hit recently with a shower of criticism after School Board members pressured the administration to revisit the agreement that welcomed the clinic into the two East Iberville schools.
Board members’ requests were driven by several complaints from parents about students being pulled from core classes by clinic nurses for medical exams, billing parents’ insurance companies without proper consent prior to treatment and attempting to treat students without parental consent forms on file.
St. Gabriel city officials as well as members of the clinic’s board of directors came out in staunch support of keeping the clinics on the campuses. A community-based organization organized a petition drive to try to persuade School Board members to rethink their position on the clinics.
After more than a month of negotiations, the new draft contains components both sides had compromised on.
According to the news release, the draft contains language indicating the clinic would continue to obtain parental consent through written consent forms to treat students and calls for the school system to assist the clinic in obtaining parental OK for health services to students.
The proposed agreement also says the clinic and school system would work in tandem to devise scheduled times for students to be treated that wouldn’t interfere with their core classes.
The draft also outlines a laundry list of services the clinic would provide to students, including vision and hearing screenings, training school nurses for noncomplex procedures, and administering medications and assisted feedings to those students who need it.
“We believe our proposed agreement meets all the state and federal guidelines that regulate our policies and procedures,” Kirk said in the news release.
The school district’s current agreement with the health clinic, signed in 2009, is a one-page document binding the district to provide free space on the east bank campuses and to maintain the clinics’ infrastructure needs.
In return, St. Gabriel Health Clinic has to provide a physician or nurse practitioner to work in collaboration with school staff.
The arrangement gives east bank students more-comprehensive school-based health care compared to students attending west bank schools, which have only school nurses with limited resources.
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