In an early-morning special called meeting, the Bedford County Board of Education gave approval today to proceed with the final step in a grant process which could provide a school-based health care system to 14 local schools.
The SBHC grant is awarding up to $500,000 in funding, which could be used to purchase video equipment, created especially for medical use and rated as a Class 1 medical device. Once acquired for use in the schools, the equipment could additionally be used to provide services to instructional staff as well as other county employees.
The application must be completed and submitted by next Tuesday. Notice of the grant award may be received as early as December.
"Betsy [Norris] has done a wonderful job of getting this grant ready to be submitted," said Dr. Andrea Anderson, who represented the board on the grant committee.
According to Anderson, five local physicians have signed non-binding memorandums of understanding for inclusion in the grant application. Anderson has also signed a letter of support as a board member. "I think it's a very positive thing for our children."
The weeks of discussion between the school system and local doctors had an added benefit.
"It opened up some discussion that needed to happen between the medical community and the school system that should have been there all along," said Anderson.
"I think this has been a catalyst to help foster better relationships. Even if the grant does not come through, there are things [the schools and the medical community] could come together and do."
Primarily, the local grant request will be for the provision of computers, high-definition monitors and HD video cameras to allow communication between local nursing staff and local physicians who elected to join the program.
The school system serves 14 schools and staffs seven registered nurses and two licensed practical nurses. The video conference equipment could link to a nurse practitioner who could electronically view blood pressure, and use an electronic stethoscope and otoscope to provide an examination, and would be able to provide a prescription for medicine.
The HRSA does not require a matching contribution from awarded agencies.
"It is difficult for a teacher to teach a sick child," said Norris, school grant coordinator. "When student illnesses are not taken care of at home, it has a major impact in classrooms.
"Therefore, the physicians and educators have collaborated and planned and will work together to implement a telemedicine program in Bedford County. It has potential to make a difference in attendance, academics, and in health education and awareness in our entire community."
The board also approved changes to the school budget as discussed in a meeting on Monday. Details of that vote will be provided in Sunday's T-G.