A nonprofit health clinic operating in two schools on the east bank of Iberville Parish is finding itself at odds with the Iberville Parish School Board, which wants the school system to assert more control over how the clinics treat students.
School Board members say they’ve gotten complaints from parents about students being pulled from 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.
Victor Kirk, chief executive officer of the health clinics operating at East Iberville and the Math, Science and Arts Academy-East campus, defended the work done by the clinics.
He said the complaints by parents have no merit, adding that school officials failed to discuss any of them with him privately before discussing the matter at a public meeting last month.
“If you don’t clearly understand what we do and why we do it, it’s going to be difficult for you to understand how to respond to that complaint,” Kirk said. “This is a small community, and rumors run rampant.”
Iberville Parish School Board members say the school district is trying to work out a new memorandum of understanding with St. Gabriel Health that would give the school system more oversight of the clinic’s operations on school campuses.
Board President Darlene Ourso said she recognizes some board members want to keep the clinics at the schools but said “the school system should have some control as to what is taking place.”
Theresa Roy, one of the board members who represents East Iberville, agreed with Ourso’s assessment. She said parents she’s talked to feel St. Gabriel Health Clinic isn’t keeping them well informed about the types of medical attention it gives students.
“When they’re signing these consent forms at the beginning of the year, it’s not being made clear to them what they are signing,” Roy said. “These consent forms basically give them the power to do whatever they want to a child without telling the parent.”
The St. Gabriel Health Clinic has been involved in serving the health care needs of East Iberville’s underprivileged residents for more than 20 years. It expanded its services to the school system about 10 years ago through the partnership with the school district.
The school district’s current memorandum of understanding with the health clinic, signed in 2009, is a one-page document binding the district to provide free space on its two campuses in East Iberville and maintain the clinics’ infrastructure needs.
In return, St. Gabriel Health Clinic has to provide a physician or nurse practitioner to serve student health care needs and work in collaboration with school staff.
In its list of proposed changes, the school district is asking St. Gabriel Health to obtain annual parental consent forms and provide a copy of them to the administration no later than Sept. 1.
Other proposed changes include health clinic representatives and school administrators devising a treatment schedule that doesn’t interrupt students’ instructional time. It would also require the clinic to notify parents about all health-related issues with students. The clinic would further be mandated to check immunization records for all students, perform vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings and provide proof that the clinic’s employees are trained to perform all noncomplex health procedures.
Brandie Blanchard, supervisor of personnel and policy for the school district, said the proposed memorandum of understanding mirrors one the district had before Kirk took over as CEO seven years ago and amended it to its current agreement.
“In some instances, this may be the only medical attention these kids get,” she said. “But no agreement should be all or nothing. We need to come to an understanding where students’ medical needs are being met with limited liability on anyone’s part.”
However, Kirk claims the school system’s proposal would place too great a financial burden on the operation. He said it is also too far-reaching for an industry under state-mandated laws geared toward protecting patient medical records.
“We’re extremely excited the school system has enough confidence in us that they want to expand the services they want us to provide,” Kirk said Friday. “A part of this marriage is who’s responsible for what. We’re highly dependent on the base funding we receive from treating students. But they didn’t factor in these costs to these changes.”
He added, “We want to provide every item of service, but don’t impose it on us.”
Kirk said officials on both sides do intend to meet soon to begin negotiations on the proposed MOU. The School Board could revisit the matter and take action at its next regular meeting on March 9.
“We look forward to this. We’re eager,” Kirk said. “But our history with the School Board has been that they haven’t responded favorably to any of our requests.”
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