News that limited nursing services will be provided at Buffalo's 60 public schools under a stopgap $1.2 million contract is welcome. However, this is sadly an interim solution still in need of a long-term fix. Kaleida Health will provide 10 registered nurses, 12 licensed practical nurses and five health aides to the district. It should help supplement the 13 schools that already have health clinics, and three nurses on the payroll. But it's far from adequate.
Coverage will be sparse, with some schools finding themselves with a nurse for just an hour a day to dispense medications. Other schools might have a nurse all day to assist students with severe medical needs and the rest will have coverage from two to four hours a day. Full-time nurses at every school seem more like wishing upon a star given the financial constraints that led to a nursing shortage and Erie County's decision to lay off 46 Buffalo school nurses it controlled last year. Yet it's unconscionable that there are schools without nurses.
It's unfortunate a plan to fund nurses through the BOCES program did not win the governor's signature, although not without reason. The bill would have allowed Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers to receive about 80 percent state reimbursement for nursing costs. Fact is, the BOCES program was not intended to fund nursing staff at city schools; but that doesn't help the schoolchildren who need them. Explain to a parent whose child needs medication dispensed twice every school day that Albany legal restrictions prevent that.
School officials face daunting challenges as they continue to try to persuade unions to go along with a single health-care provider. The money saved and the benefits extended to students could mean rehiring laid-off teachers and assistant principals, or seeing to other student needs. This is another example of how county wrangling between the legislators and County Executive Joel A. Giambra affects the lives of needy people and children.