District 15 clinic fails to get city approval

The St. Francis School District 15’s plans for opening a medical clinic for its employees at the high school has failed to get city approval.

At its April 16 meeting, the St. Francis City Council voted 2-2 on the ordinance amendment and conditional use permit (CUP) to allow the clinic at St. Francis High School.

Councilmembers Jeff Sandoval and Tim Brown voted no, while Councilmember Steve Kane was absent.

The ordinance amendment would have needed a four-fifths affirmative vote to allow the 1,000 square-foot medical clinic to operate in the St. Francis High School, which is located in a R-2, single family residential district, and the CUP needed a three-fifths majority to pass.

While Councilmember Chris McClish made a motion to table the vote until Kane could return from his business trip, Brown was against the wait.

“This (issue) has been dragged out too long. Let’s do it or don’t do it,” he said.

This was the fourth time the council had discussed the issue since February.

District 15 approved its contract with NeoPath Dec. 12, 2011 with plans to open a clinic at the high school in January.

It opened a temporary clinic at Sandhill Center for the Arts in Bethel in mid-February.

Mayor Jerry Tveit was for the proposal because “it makes sense,” he said.

Many businesses offer on-site clinics for their employees, including his employer Hoffman Enclosures, said Tveit.

The district wants to provide this benefit to its employees, he said.

Although some council members and residents claim the clinic will compete with existing businesses in town, “it is not for me to decide whether or not it will compete with other businesses,” Tveit said.

The difference is the district is a public entity that receives public funds and it is restricting who will benefit from the clinic, Sandoval said.

According to the district, employees who work 20 hours a week and are eligible for health insurance are able to use the clinic.

Of its 800 employees, 673 would be eligible to use the clinic, according to David Lindberg, district human resources director.

The council has been looking at this for quite a while and what really bothers him is that the district’s story keeps changing, said Brown.

Different people are saying different things and it feels like the city is not being told everything, he said.

“I am not comfortable this,” Brown said.

Voting for the clinic is not in the best interest of the city, he said.

Two residents came to the meeting to speak against the clinic.

The voters approved a $6 million levy to build the addition to the high school for more student classrooms, said Bill Gardner.

Putting a clinic in the addition is not what the voters approved, he said.

Gardner also claimed to have 357 e-mails from district employees who are against the clinic.

Having a clinic in the high school will take away business from the Fairview Clinic in town, said resident Maureen Ness.

The city does not have to play well with others, “we have to do what is right,” she said.

And district employees and community members are questioning if having a clinic in the school is right, Ness said.

At the April 2 council meeting, Kane had said that Goodrich Pharmacy would be dispensing prescriptions for the district’s clinic, but that does not appear to be the case.

There is no contract, formal or verbal, with the district or NeoPath to dispense prescriptions, said Michelle Johnson from Goodrich Pharmacy.


Next step

The district is still determining what the next step will be, said Tom Larson, community education, services and custodial/maintenance director.

While it may have hit a road bump, the district plans to continue the clinic, he said.

The district wants to lower its health insurance costs and it is logical for the clinic to be in St. Francis where 70 percent of the employees work, Larson said.

It has contracted with NeoPath for the service the same way it contracts with autism specialists, mental health specialist and its tax annuity specialists, Larson said.

”We provide health services for our students,” he said. “The concept of a health service for our employees runs parallel and is geared to maintaining a healthy work force and reducing our overall health insurance costs.”

Larson said he respects the process that the city has to go through, but thinks the council’s decision is short-sighted.

The conversation was on the clinic concept, not the ordinance amendment or the CUP, he said.

He also has a problem that one government entity (the city) is dictating to another government agency (the school district) what it can have in its schools, Larson said.

Plus, bringing employees that work in the other cities in the district into St. Francis will bring more business to the city, according to Larson.

Providing a medical clinic to employees is not a new concept for schools, Larson said. Three other Minnesota school districts already run their own clinics, he said.

The District 15 School Board voted unanimously to approve the concept last fall and the clinic, which is booked solid, is not going away, Larson said.

For now it will stay in Bethel, he said.

Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]