Chicago Teachers Union report shows crisis in school health services caused by Chicago Public Schools privatization of nursing services...

Members of the Chicago Board of Education during the June 24, 2015 Board meeting at Brooks High School. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Chicago Teachers Union has issued a 33-page study detailing how the privatization of nursing services in the nation's third largest school system is threatening the health of the city's nearly 400,000 public school children. The largest privatization plan at CPS was approved by the Chicago Board of Education at its June 2015 meeting -- a four-year plan that will ultimately cost the taxpayers $30 million, giving nursing services to a New York corporation. The Board of Education approved the contract unanimously and without debate. The new CTU report challenges the privatization of health services at CPS.

A February 23, 2016 CTU press release details the study's contents:

New CTU report finds privatized nursing services in Chicago�s public schools are pushing the district to the brink of a health crisis

CHICAGO�The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released a special report examining a health crisis happening in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) due to its continued outsourcing epidemic�this time, affecting the health of nearly 400,000 students throughout the district. The report, titled �Nursing Services at CPS,� looks at the outsourcing of the management of school nurses to RCM Technologies, an east coast company with defense contracts, in the summer of 2015. Six months into this four-year contract, CPS nurses are reporting on the drastic failure of this company to meet its contractual obligations.

During the Wednesday, Feb. 24 Chicago Board of Education meeting, nurses, parents and juvenile health advocates will present their findings to CPS and call on CEO Forrest Claypool to end the district�s contract with RCM and use the funds to employ a full-time Certified Nurse in every school and enough Licensed Practical Nurses and Health Service Nurses to ensure that every student receives the proper, required preventive health service and care.

At the June 2015 Board of Education meeting, CPS voted unanimously to approve a $30 million, four-year contract with RCM Technologies for supplemental nursing services, professional development and scheduling. Nine months after the RCM contract was signed�a contract that was promoted as a cost savings move�nurses throughout the district are reporting shocking stories of untrained agency nurses who cannot perform basic tasks like operating an epinephrine injection (EpiPen�), completing progress notes for case files or showing up for work assignments. Too often, nurses have said that agency nurses refuse to do their assigned tasks because RCM did not specify those particular tasks when they were scheduled.

Nurses also have reported a high turnover rate of RCM nurses, exacerbating relationship issues even more.

�Temporary nurses aren�t able to create trusting relationships with the students they�re serving, particularly with younger students, who have medical conditions that require them to spend a significant amount of time with their nurses,� said CTU President Karen Lewis.

�Yet this is how CPS repeatedly chooses to spend its money � just like its janitorial contracts with Aramark and SodexoMagic � by outsourcing services to private companies that prove to be complete failures at serving schools,� Lewis said. �This is why we believe that they�re broke on purpose�they have the money to spend on the things they find value in, but when it comes to teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians, they can�t seem to figure it out.�

In the past, according to the report, CPS nurses were responsible for administering immunizations, following up on children who were screened for vision and hearing loss to make sure they received the medical care, glasses and hearing aids they needed, and checking for communicable diseases. School nurses also were responsible for health education on topics such as hygiene, nutrition, pregnancy prevention and the importance of physical education, and pregnancy prevention.

Now, nurses only serve special education students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 Plans�two plans for supporting students with special needs�so while in-school responsibilities have decreased, care is still needed for some of the district�s most vulnerable and at-risk students. With rising levels of diabetes and allergies, not to mention the high number of CPS students who do not receive preventative health care services outside of school, entirely privatizing the public school nursing system will create a health disaster in Chicago.

�The contract with RCM also includes an arrangement where the company receives money from CPS as a reward for reducing the cost of providing health care services to special ed students, said CTU researcher Sarah Hainds, author of the report. �It does not reward the quality of the care these students receive, which is really what should be measured.�

CPS continues to claim that there is a shortage of nurses, yet staffing agencies are employing hundreds of them, according to Hainds. �CPS is short-staffed on purpose,� she said. �They do not advertise for nurses in a timely fashion, or on job sites frequented by nurses, and do not provide timely responses to job applicants.�

The RCM Technologies contract is intended to eventually eliminate union nursing positions and replace them with temporary nurses without job protections or employment benefits such as health care and a pension, Hainds added. The report�s findings recommend that CPS should consider creating a nursing �pipeline,� similar to

Illinois� Grow Your Own Teacher program, to develop cohorts of nurses trained on the job while completing school nurse certification programs.


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