BOONEVILLE — Completing an effort several years in the making, the Booneville School District will be able to offer medical services to its students on campus beginning next year.
They will do so through a telemedicine agreement with Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The school board approved the contract Tuesday and interim superintendent Scotty Pierce signed the document before ACH representative Carla Sparks.
A Children’s pediatrician will be “seeing” the students electronically and in the presence of the school nurse. Children’s doctors will be able to not only see students via telecommunication carts but will also be able to conduct lab work, test for the flu and do urinalysis.
“That’s going to be very, very helpful for us,” Booneville Elementary School assistant principal Jyme Beth Diffee said.
The contract requirements for the school district, Sparks said, are primarily providing a space for the service, Internet connection, consent forms signed to allow students to be seen, an on-staff nurse, and $450 in certification costs to use the machines, for which Sparks said Children’s will also assist.
The telemedicine machines cost about $30,000 each, Sparks said, a cost that will be covered by Children’s through a USDA grant. Children’s is also responsible for insurance on the devices.
The district had, on at least three occasions, discussed and/or applied for a grant to start a wellness center, but those efforts were dismissed and/or rejected. A telemedicine agreement was reached that would have started the service this school year, but that was delayed because of the passage of a bill that required ACH to connect with local primary care physicians, Sparks said.
The term of the contract is one year and will renew automatically unless the district chooses to opt out of the service.
Billing, for the time being, is a non-issue, Sparks said, because state law currently doesn’t allow for Children’s to bill for its services.