Briefly: City health officials defend nurse layoffs

Two days after a dozen school nurses railed against recent nurse layoffs, city health officials were on the defensive Wednesday night.

At a Finance Committee meeting at the Board of Aldermen, city health director Mario Garcia SPH ’02 said the city’s ratio of students to nurses remains within the nationally accepted range of 750 to one. Several school nurses testified to the committee Monday on increased medical risks due to the layoffs, which stretch 29 nurses across over 55 schools and over 19,000 students.

But the city’s health department had no other choice, Garcia said, given the 9.2 percent reduction in its budget.

Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez worried that the nurse layoffs could put children with special medical needs, such as diabetes and severe allergies, at greater risk.

The assignment of nurses across schools takes into account those needs, Garcia responded.

Still, at 921 to one, James Hillhouse High School has an “unacceptable” ratio of students to nurses, said Ward 11 Alderwoman Maureen O’Sullivan-Best.

“When you’re presenting to the Board of Aldermen a ratio in a school that is way out of whack, that’s something that needs to be addressed,” Best said.

Garcia nodded and said he would work to improve the school’s ratio.

All city departments except the Board of Education and the Office of Legislative Services saw their budgets reduced in Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s budget proposals.

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