Members of the union, school nurses and community members were all in attendance at Wednesday’s school board meeting, where they warned privatization and outsourcing of nurses will impact student health.
“Children need nurses and clinicians who are a part of the school community and have a voice as school workers,” said Helen Ramirez-Odell, a retired school nurse.
Ramirez-Odell said moving essential health services to the private sector is not a solution and CPS is creating a crisis by leaving nursing vacancies unfilled and outsourcing care.
School nurses often have to travel to several schools each day to catheterize students or give tube feedings, Ramirez-Odell said.
Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said he is confident CPS can come up with a solution to address the concerns.
“It’s a situation that I’m sure we’re all going to take a look at,” Vitale said gesturing to the board members.
But Vitale’s response did not satisfy everyone.
Chicago resident Ronald Jackson leaned over the podium and reprimanded Vitale, saying he thinks the board is capable of doing more.
Joan Lipschutz, an active CPS certified school nurse, agreed, saying schools need nurses who are committed to CPS and understand the culture and structure of the CPS system.
The number of certified nurses in CPS has fallen 25 percent since 2007, Lipschutz said, which she said is negatively impacting the care school nurses can provide to students.
Lipschutz said she has spent many mornings “playing musical chairs” with school nurses to move them around to different schools because the private agencies were unable to provide nurses that day.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued a news release that said most elementary schools have access to a nurse for one day per week. Nurses, therefore, do not have the time to check the immunization record of students to help prevent an outbreak, such as influenza or the measles.
According to the release, CPS, instead of hiring more certified school nurses, continues to combat these issues through outsourcing.
Lipschutz said she thinks reaching out to private agencies for more nurses is not the solution. Rather, CPS needs to hire more of its own nurses, she said.
“Part of my job is making sure the students are covered in getting one-on-one medical attention,” Lipschutz said. “[These] outside agencies are already showing issues and showing they are less committed [to the schools].”
Ramirez-Odell said CPS is not saving money by outsourcing nursing services because nurses that are given lower pay and fewer benefits in order to save the school system money are likely to be more unreliable and move on to better positions.
“Private agencies are in the business to make money,” Ramirez-Odell said.