AISD school nurses’ program could cost $2 million more than budgeted

FILE - Students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A longstanding partnership between Austin Independent School District and Seton Healthcare to provide a Student Health Services Program is being tested ahead of this year’s budget process, KXAN has learned.

A recent email from the head of the program leaked to KXAN says the program will cost $7.2 million for the upcoming school year. AISD is currently budgeting $5.1 million.

“Seton Healthcare is no longer in a position to cover this gap. In the event AISD does not increase our (Student Health Service) budget we need to quickly identify ways to reduce cost and/or change our staffing model,” the memo continued.

School Board Member Paul Saldana says he heard from Superintendent Paul Cruz that Seton wants to charge the District more for its nurses this year.

“Cruz said that Seton had made him aware that there might be some challenges, but they weren’t aware of what that dollar amount might be. So our full board has not been briefed on that,” Saldana said.

A spokesperson from Seton will only tell KXAN the healthcare network works every year to stretch AISD’s budget for school nurses, and that school budget process is just getting underway. The district typically finalizes the budget in June.

Earlier this month, a school district spokesperson wrote KXAN: “We appreciate the partnership we have had with Seton for more than 20 years and will continue to work closely with [Seton] to find a solution, while providing the best care for our students.”

A 2015 annual report shows the Student Health Services Program helped more than 1,100 students who are either uninsured or on Medicaid.

Services included:

  • physicals for more than 800 underserved student athletes
  • access to 12 campus counseling referral centers
  • the start of the Epi-pens In Schools program

For several months now, KXAN has covered significant changes and cuts within the Seton health care system. Last month, Dell Children’s Medical Center eliminated child life specialist assistant positions, replacing them with volunteers. The concerned parent of a patient contacted us after their child went for chemo and there were no volunteers.

In January, we looked at Seton’s move to scale back the number of on-site interpreters in favor of virtual translators, on phones and tablets. The Texas Association of Healthcare Interpreters and Translators said Seton dismissed 67 interpreters, with plans to re-hire 13 full-time translators.

KXAN will continue to track this issue as the school budget year evolves.

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