City Council may look into schools' lack of nurses

October 04, 2004|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A city councilwoman wants Baltimore health and school officials to explain why 20 of the city's 39 high schools do not have nurses or health aides on staff this school year.

Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh plans to introduce a resolution at a meeting tonight calling for health and school officials to brief the council on the shortfall in medical staff, which was detailed in a recent article in The Sun. The council is likely to schedule a hearing on the matter.

The reduced medical staff is the result of budget cuts to a $10 million program that is meant to place a nurse or health aide in every Baltimore school. The medical personnel are provided by the city Health Department, with the funding coming from the schools and the city.

School officials said they were surprised in June to learn about the staff cuts from the Health Department. Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the city health commissioner, said the 20 schools lost their nurses because of a $1.5 million shortfall in the program's budget, about half of it caused by reductions in state medical and welfare funds that are funneled to the city.

The city also could not continue to cover what had become an annual $400,000 shortage in the system's portion of funding for the nursing program, Beilenson said.

The city pays for slightly more than half of the $10.6 million nursing program, which staffs a health suite or clinic in every school. The clinics, which provide sports physicals, family planning and mental health counseling, were not affected by the cuts.

The nursing program also became more expensive this year because the nurses, who had been paid $33,000 a year on average, received a 7 percent pay raise.

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