County should keep clinic public

January 27, 2008 11:00 pm

To the editor:

I'd like to share my opinions about your editorial regarding privatization of the school-based health clinic. I worked at the Health Department for many years with Nancy Staten, and know what a valuable employee she is. I also know that the school clinic has always provided a great service, offering health care to students thanks in large part to Nancy. She has been with the county for 21 years and the school-based clinic for 17.

The county is about to guarantee a private contractor, Baker Clinic, the same amount of money that it cost the county to operate the school clinic last year. Public services aren't expected to operate at a profit — they're doing well when they stay within their budget. I know Nancy always saw to that. Now she is being forced to take a demotion to the Health Department to maintain her benefits. I'm sure there are health professionals willing to work at the school clinic. Three good nurses worked there for the first 15 years. Three good nurses have left in the last two years. Maybe all this should be looked into. It appears to me that Baker County doesn't value good employees.

Perhaps some questions should be asked. Does privatization provide any advantage for the students or taxpayers? Was it because of problems with the county that the school district had to look for outside sources to manage the school clinic? Baker County seems very anxious to get rid of it. What will happen if this privatization experiment doesn't work out? Does Baker County plan to assume responsibility for it, or does the school-based clinic just close its doors? I think maybe Baker County should leave well enough alone, and get some managers willing to run their county programs instead of privatizing those they think are too much trouble.

Julie French

Baker City