The Carthage School District and Mercy, the owners of Mercy Carthage Hospital, are working on plans to put a medical clinic for students and school staff in Carthage High School starting the coming year.

The Carthage School District and Mercy, the owners of Mercy Carthage Hospital, are working on plans to put a medical clinic for students and school staff in Carthage High School starting the coming year.
Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker presented the plan to the R-9 Board of Education for discussion only at Monday's regular meeting.
Baker said he and Mercy officials plan to have a contract for the clinic on the Board's agenda for a vote in July.

The basics
He said the clinic would not be open to the public, only the 5,000 students, 730 staff in all the schools, and immediate families of the staff.
The clinic would be located in the High School near the commons area.
The clinic would charge normal Mercy clinic fees and parents of students, and staff, would be responsible for paying the bills like in a clinic outside the school – it would not be some kind of free clinic.

Reducing absenteeism
Baker said he was approached by Mercy to establish a clinic in the school a few years back, but he turned them down because “I did not want to be the guinea pig.”
Baker said the goal of the clinic is to reduce absenteeism in both students and employees by getting medical care available to them more quickly.
“A few weeks ago, we challenged our administration at the high school to improve attendance for students,” Baker said. “They went to another school district to see what they are doing, and they asked me to revisit this opportunity. So tonight what I want to do is first, introduce some of the Mercy officials who are here, then we're going to go back and forth with how our program, hopefully will be designed.”
Mercy officials were at Monday's meeting and clarified the plan as Baker presented it to the board. Mercy has a clinic in the Webb City schools.
Dr. Tracy Godfrey, with Mercy, clarified that the plan was not an effort to compete with primary care physicians or other health care providers.
“This is actually in partnership with our primary care physicians in the community and in the region,” Godfrey said. “In the Webb City clinic, any time we see a patient who has a primary care physician, we always communicate back to that office and let them know that their patient was seen and what they were seen for.”

Advantages
Baker said the district would pay to remodel the space for the clinic, and provide utilities, internet service and insurance on the building as part of it's normal insurance plan.
Mercy would be responsible for paying the staff of the clinic.
Students would only be seen with a parent's permission and after a school nurse has decided the student should go home because of some kind of illness.
Teachers from all the schools in the district could use the clinic before school hours or during their prep or lunch time. Baker said the assumption is that wait times would be less than at a clinic outside the school because the clinic is not open to the public.
“Obviously any time students are attending school, they have a better opportunity to learn,” Baker said. “The more we have our regular teachers teaching in class, the instructional emphasis is going to be stronger. Our substitutes are great, but obviously, when you have the teacher in the building and the classroom, we're better off.”

Opposition
Most board members spoke favorably about the plan, but Board Member Bill Lasley declared his opposition, saying he was opposed to using tax payer's dollars to give space to a private hospital for a clinic.
“As I understand it, we the school district, paid for by the tax payers, are giving Mercy, for $1 a year, a facility, a clinic,” Lasley said. “And we're paying the utilities and we're paying for insurance. So aren't we giving Mercy a leg up on their competitors? Aren't we intervening into the economics of the medical community in Carthage?
“I just think we're providing an unfair advantage to Mercy. Have (Doctors) Manzer or Sacre or anyone else who is a potential competitor been notified? I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing one for-profit organization with tax payers dollars.”
Board President Tony Diggs told the administration to proceed with the contract since the majority of the board seemed to favor the idea.