DARLINGTON – With the pandemic last year and schools trying to reopen, it was discovered that many school districts across Wisconsin don’t have a full-time nurse, that according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Most of the schools in Lafayette County count on the Lafayette County Health Department Public nurses to assist in that situation, which is not common in Wisconsin. Black Hawk is the only school district in the county that has their own nursing service.
Health Department Committee chair Bob Boyle stated that the health department is doing a service for the schools and trying to save them money by having the public health nurses go into the schools for a few hours per week.
The pandemic put a hamper on having those nurses in the schools as they were splitting their time between dealing with COVID-19 and taking care of students.
In discussion at the Health Department Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 9, the hourly rate was brought up. The current rate is $55 per hour.
Health Department Director Julie Leibfried stated that the schools have been great partners during this past year understanding that many of the nurses have been “swamped” with COVID-19.
The current rate allows the health department to barely break even for the amount of work the nurses put into the schools.
According to nursing staff, the rate was increased a few years ago from $50 to $55. Public Health Nurse Danielle Steger told the committee that when the employees were given raises about three or four years ago it caused some confusion with the hourly rate. The school districts would have had to pay a significant jump to cover the total expenses. The committee at that time decided to slowly stair step the rate up to help cover the cost. Steger stated that with the changing of staff and directors, that increase was never implemented.
The committee agreed that they wanted the department to at least break even and would be looking at all the costs and would bring back their findings to the board at the next board meeting. The nursing contracts don’t start until July 1 so they would have time to discuss if an increase would be needed.
As of March 9, there were 3,734 shots of the COVID-19 vaccine given. The health department had given 2,630 vaccines. Over 22 percent of the population of Lafayette County has been vaccinated. Seventy- three percent of the 65 and older have had their shots as well. The state has had 18.4 percent of the population vaccinated and only 61.7 percent of those over 65.
The department was notified that at some point they would be getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
Leibfried stated that many of the nurses are getting “burnt out” and are under constant scrutiny from the community.
“Our regular jobs don’t stop. Just because 99 percent of our time is consumed by covid, our regular jobs keep going. Trying to do two full time jobs in one is a lot,” Leibfried stated.
She added that the staff has been doing great and want tot get the vaccines out as fast as possible. In previous discussions with Boyle, Leibfried asked the committee about the possibility of the staff receiving a raise for the work they have done.
Boyle stated he would look into that and bring it back to the committee at their next meeting.