Friday, April 29, 2011

Philadelphia Public School Nurses Lament Children Coming to School Sick When They Should Be At Home Getting Well

Pirate Nurse Office 1For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2011

Lauren Townsend 215-939-7621
Earned Sick Time Campaign
Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces

Philadelphia Public School Nurses Lament Children Coming to School Sick When They Should Be At Home Getting Well

As any parent, teacher, school nurse or daycare provider knows, children frequently get sick. And when they do, sitting in school doesn’t help them get better, they need to be home with a parent. When children with communicable diseases stay home, it can break the chain of contagion.

“No parent wants their child to be in a classroom where there is a child with pink eye, a fever, or nausea and vomiting,” said Diane Mohney, RN. “Having been a school nurse for 29 years in the Philadelphia Public School System, I witnessed time and time again children who came to school sick because their parents had to work and couldn’t afford to take the day off to spend time helping their kids get better.”

Diane Mohney was one of several public school nurses who met this afternoon at a South Philadelphia diner to talk about children coming to school sick when they should be home getting well. The meeting between nurses and the media was convened by the Philadelphia Campaign for Earned Sick Days, a project of the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces.

Mohney continued, "Asthmatic children who came to school wheezing sometimes had to be sent to the emergency room by ambulance. Children with red, watery eyes frequently turned out to have pink eye. A student who just “looked tired” at home turned out to have a high fever with a strep throat. And a child who had a stomachache and vomited the night before turned out to have pneumonia. All of these children should have been taken to the doctor, but their working parents would have lost a day’s pay. 

Mohney was joined by Lorraine Durkin, Francesca Hoeffel, Gwen Robbins and Lynnette Lazerus who are each RNs working as Philadelphia Public School nurses.

Lorraine Durkin, RN, said, "I'm the school nurse at the Franklin Learning Center. I've been there for 19 years. It's a special admission high school accepting students throughout the City, and they often come in sick, or with pink eye, or some other contagious illness. When questioned, it's because the parent cannot stay home with them, or cannot leave work without fear of being fired. The school is often very far from the home increasing the amount of time necessary to pick up the student.

"Almost every day," continued Durkin, "I speak to a parent begging me to send a student home alone, because they cannot leave work -- its heartbreaking. Of course we're not allowed to let them leave alone, especially when sick. The result is too many students in school and classes with a contagious condition. When the parents come in, I'm often asked to write a note saying that it was necessary for the parent to leave their job. Parents should have a right to care for their children when sick!"

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have 17 well-child visits between ages 2 and 21. However, fewer than half of US children are receiving adequate care (Chung P., et al. (2006, April). Preventive Care For Children In The United States: Quality and Barriers. Annual Review of Public Health).

Preventive care visits are tough enough to make happen. The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy’s Amy Traub estimates that more than two in five Philadelphia workers are not able to earn paid sick time to care for their own illness – and many more can’t take sick time to care for a child.

Furthermore, children with chronic conditions such as asthma, or diabetes need follow-up appointments to adjust medications and evaluate treatments, especially when first diagnosed. Once the adjustments to their medications, blood tests, etc. are made, their care can become routine, they miss less time from school, and their parents miss less time from work. Children whose parents don’t have paid time often have to obtain care for their children on a catch-as-catch-can basis. This can result in frequent exacerbations of a chronic condition, that include prescriptions that aren’t refilled, and risks to life and health. 

Making the decision to stay home with a sick child when it means losing a day’s pay or possibly losing one’s job is an impossible choice. 

This can change in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia City Council can pass Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces (Bill No 080474) before they leave for the summer. Introduced by Councilman William Greenlee and Councilman Darrell Clarke, this bill guarantees workers the ability to earn paid sick days. Depending on the size of the business, workers will be allowed to earn 4-9 sick days one-hour-at-a-time for every 30 hours worked.

An hour of earned sick time for every thirty hours worked will keep our children healthy and keep our workers focused on work when they are working, and caring for their children when they need to be with their children.

For more information about the Philadelphia Campaign for Earned Sick Days:

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