The Iredell County Board of Education, during its committee of the whole meeting Monday, discussed the potential of a wellness clinic that would provide primary care for Iredell-Statesville Schools employees.
Board Chairman Martin Page did not attend the meeting due to a heart catheterization and two stents. Vice Chairman Chuck Gallyon said that Page was recovering well.
Alvera Lesane, associate superintendent for human resources at I-SS, said, during a presentation on the wellness clinic, that the purpose of the clinic would be to help curb what she said are high medical costs for I-SS employees.
“This is very important. There is not a meeting that I sit in every month that we don’t talk about not only our financial challenges as a district but also the financial challenges of individual employees,” Lesane said.
Lesane said that a 2% raise for an employee making an annual salary of $28,000 could be diminished with high co-payments and medical costs.
Lesane also said that the clinic would serve as a way of increasing productivity and getting employees back to work. She said there is an average of 400 work absences a year among the more than 2,500 I-SS employees.
“We want to engage in prevention versus just treatment of some of the chronic cases,” Lesane said. “High blood pressure, diabetes, those things that we know that some knowledge and some prevention could really help improve the quality of life for employees.”
Lesane said that potential locations of the clinic could be a portion of the Unity Center or the county’s wellness center, which she said was about to be vacated by the county as it moves into a larger building.
Lesane said that the bare minimum to get the clinic started would be to hire a family nurse practitioner and a medical office assistant. She said that the total annual salary of these positions would be $119,700.
She said that the school system, if it went ahead with this project, could design the budget of the clinic however it decided.
“The beautiful thing about this to me,” Lesane said. “We can create it to be whatever we want it to be. We can set the hours. We can determine what our budget can afford. We can start small and go big. We can go big out (of) the gate. We have a lot of flexibility as far as what we can design the continuum of services to be.”
Misty Kerr, director of corporate wellness at Iredell Health System, advocated for the wellness clinic.
“Investing in wellness is truly investing in your greatest resource, which is the employees,” Kerr said.
Lesane said that the goal of the clinic would be to have co-payments at zero for employees but that it could be $10, which she said would still save employees money in terms of their health costs.
Board member Charles Kelly said that the discussion should not be construed as a consensus to go ahead with the project because of the various factors involved with it.
He said that he preferred partnerships with existing medical providers instead of building a new clinic.
“The emergency room at Davis (Regional Medical Center) can take care of you in 15 minutes. Now that means that they’ve got some spare time. So I’m creating another clinic here when we have all these facilities available? I don’t understand it,” Kelly said.
Lesane said that a wellness clinic would provide access and direct communication for employees that existing medical facilities could not.
“Our employees could go there on the clock,” Lesane said. “Someone’s experiencing flu symptoms. They would be able to go to this clinic during the time we would have a protocol, where we would know when they left the school, get there, receive their services, and get back to work.”
Lesane said that without a clinic that employees have to take up to a whole day of work off to receive a routine medical vaccination.
Kerr said that employees that don’t have primary care and go to the emergency room for routine medical needs spend three to five times more in medical costs at the emergency room. She said that a wellness clinic would save employees thousands of dollars a year in medical costs by allowing them to use medical resources appropriately.
“Yes, we want you to come to the emergency department when you have an emergency, but not when you have a headache or fever,” Kerr said. “On-site clinics provide that access and the appropriate resources, and they can be redirected if they need more advanced services.”
Board member Todd Carver said that he sees the benefit of the wellness clinic but that he wants more information in order to make an informed decision.
The rest of the board agreed and requested that Lesane presented more information in the future before proceeding with the project.