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Unhealthy dispute: Local medical community challenges school system's approach

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dan Buckner, left, administrator of Heritage Medical Center, listens as Leland Dampier, Jr. details his concerns regarding telemedicine in the schools. Dampier serves as president of his daughter's local cosmetic surgery center.
(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons) [Order this photo]
In April, school board member Chad Graham criticized Bedford County's school system for a memorandum of understanding between the system and Primary Care and Hope Clinic, a Murfreesboro-based clinic affiliated with Middle Tennessee Medical Center.

The clinic offered to bring an MTMC-owned mobile unit to Learning Way Elementary on kindergarten registration day to provide screenings and vaccinations for those who couldn't afford them.

School-based care

Graham, who said at the time the agreement was an affront to local physicians who might have provided the same services, was among those in the local medical community who expressed concerns about a new proposal to provide school-based health care at the meeting at the board's central office Tuesday. (See related story on this page.)

"Where's the doctor that's going to sign off this? We can't practice medicine without a doctor. Who provides medical oversight for the schools?" Graham said.

Dan Buckner, CEO of Heritage Medical Center, expressed concerns about maintaining the relationship between a patient and their doctor. "If you can engage the primary care doctors, and keep them engaged with the families that are in the schools, I see that as the magic to making this work."

Vocal opponent

Leland Dampier was among the most vocal.

"This is a social problem. You are getting into a field that you have no expertise in. You need to leave that to the people that have the expertise."

A former administrator and educator, Dampier serves as president of The L. R. Dampier Cosmetic Surgery Center. Dr. Loucinda Dampier, his daughter, operates the center.

"Let me just tell you how it affects me. We've been here for three years, we came here, this man right here (referring to Buckner), and Community Health Systems paid us a ton of money to come here. We've bought everything from tires to groceries here. We came here to make a living here," said Dampier, who maintains homes in Shelbyville and south Georgia.

"The future of medicine is not going to be kind to you if you run the healthcare people you have in place here off. If they can't make a living, then you're going to run some off," Dampier said before announcing their office will close on Dec. 15.

Dampier left the meeting shortly after making his comments.

Butrum explains

"[The medical community] asked us to come to them with a need," said Dr. Ray Butrum, superintendent. "That's why we are here now. We feel like [telemedicine] is a much easier way to help than you loading up a van load of equipment and coming to our schools and seeing children in a clinic."

Board member Amy Martin added, "I've got a goal of providing whatever we can provide to help our kids. We're asking you guys to partner with us. What is the problem here?"

If the school board grants permission to pursue the grant, Butrum committed to organizing meetings to solicit input from the medical community.

However, he said, "When we provided free breakfasts to every student regardless of [income] this year, we didn't go to the restaurants and [ask permission.]"

"As a school system, I don't think we need to go to the outside community to get permission first. We will bring you into it once we've decided as a school system to pursue something to help our children."

Buckner's view

"I think it's not, politically, the correct thing to do," replied Buckner.

"I'm not a politician. I'm the superintendent who is serious about kids, and I'm not in the political arena. I'm not going to be in the political arena," Butrum said. "I've been hired to do a job, and I'm going to help kids any way we can. It's our school board's function to approve whether we move forward on the grant."

"I think it's a good idea if done correctly, and part of 'done correctly' is that the people providing the primary heath care in this community are involved in it up-front," Buckner said. "I think it's an insult to say, the school board approved it, now you're invited or not."

Mobile unit

Board president Barry Cooper returned to the mobile health unit issue, "The mobile medical unit seemed to be a big deal to a lot of people. It was not meant as an insult to the local medical community," he said, thanking the local medical community for its past support.

"When we voted to bring the mobile unit in, we're serving the poorest of the poor, unsophisticated people. But our mission as a school board is to get every kid ready to learn, and that means they've got to have their shots, they've got to have our basic tests.

"That was our goal as we saw it. We served 21 kids, and those kids are not the reason Mr. Dampier says they are pulling out of Shelbyville."

"We're a poor county," said Cooper. "Everything we can do all together won't be enough to fill all the needs."

Getting along

Janice Womble, supervisor of secondary instruction interjected, "I think that it's important that we just remember that we're all neighbors here. This is a small community.

"We know each other folks. We are all on the same page -- we want to help all of our kids. Of course it's a social issue. I really just want to educate the children, but we know that's the perfect world we are talking about, it is not the real world."

Ivan Jones, who serves on both the hospital board and the schools' K-6 initiative, spoke of the strength of both groups.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "These two great groups can't sit down and work it out. I came here to hear a presentation."

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