The Harford County Council of PTAs has thrown its weight behind the creation of a nursing coordinator to oversee the health needs of the county's public schools.
"At this point, it is our number one priority," said Kathy Carmello, vice president of the Harford County Council of PTAs.
She said school PTAs are writing letters and signing petitions to persuade the school board to include the position in the proposed 1996 operating budget they must submit by April 1 to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.
A nursing coordinator has been in the school system's proposed budget for at least 20 years. But every year the school system, citing budget restrictions, has chosen to eliminate the position, Mrs. Carmello said. The job would pay from $35,000 to $60,000 annually, according to Donald R. Morrison, school spokesman.
A nursing coordinator would be responsible for keeping nurses up to date on health issues, including monitoring students with diseases such as diabetes, the administration of prescription drugs and the care of students with disabilities. Proponents say the position is vital to protect the health of the school system's nearly 37,000 students.
"Nursing is much more diversified than it used to be. It's not just putting on Band-Aids and treating cut fingers anymore," said Mrs. Carmello, who is also a registered nurse.
"Nurses are routinely changing colostomy bags, treating children with cerebral palsy and providing oxygen or suctioning to children who need it," she said.
The school system's 52 nurses are also responsible for administering a variety of drugs to students, including anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, said Cindy Veidt, a nurse at Homestead Wakefield Elementary School in Bel Air.
Dr. Beverly Stump, deputy director of the county health department, said she has been concerned for several years over the lack of a nursing coordinator.
"Nurses should be supervised by another nurse," Dr. Stump said. "There should be one person in the school system's administration who coordinates health care in the schools and makes sure nurses are kept up-to-date on changing medical technology and treatments."
Nurses are now supervised by John M. Mead, the supervisor of pupil services.
School nurses must also be trained to meet the needs of students with disabilities, she said. That can mean caring for students in wheelchairs, students who are ventilator-dependent and students who need catheterization or tube feeding, Dr. Stump said.
Ray R. Keech, schools superintendent, presented his proposed operating budget -- without the nursing coordinator position -- to the school board Oct. 23.
The proposed $191.5 million operating budget is an increase of 3.5 percent over this year's $185 million -- the smallest increase requested since at least 1975, Mr. Morrison said.
The proposed budget will provide the same level of services students are now receiving, said Dr. Keech. It is based on a projected enrollment increase of about 1,000 students, to 37,830 students.
The proposed operating budget includes 93 new hires, including 38 elementary school teachers and 35 middle and high school teachers.