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BATAVIA — The Genesee County Health Department is hoping to make it more convenient for school districts’ students and staff to get COVID-19 testing if needed.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit is proposing a contract with Mobile TeleMed LLC of Buffalo to provide services through July 31. The telehealth program would be in conjunction with a COVID-19 test program for symptomatic students.

“This has been a project we’ve worked on for several years, actually, around trying to bring telehealth services into our school systems pre-COVID. We had some grants we were trying to work with to get this type of technology and service into our systems,” he said. “COVID has provided some funding — ELC (Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity) funds that are specifically for the schools, to provide testing and this type of care is actually going to be able to fund this for the next year.”

Mobile TeleMed, LLC, is the only company that put together a proposal, he said.

“Essentially, what it’s going to allow is schools that want to participate will be able to have a telehealth cart down at the nurse’s office ...” Pettit said.

Pettit said students or staff at the school could come and engage with health care workers of various levels, from lower-level licensed practical nurses or registered nurses up to physicians. The two sides could talk from their respective sites.

“They could provide, potentially, an alternate diagnosis if it’s COVID, along with on-site testing, so there’s a lot of different ways they can leverage that relationship right at the school,” he said. “Right now, a lot of the parents have to go to the doctor’s office after hours, when they get out of work, and go to Urgent Care. We’re pretty confident that this type of technology will help us to avoid some of those unnecessary visits, allow it to be taken care of right on site and reduce the burden to our parents and families. This is part of our comprehensive COVID testing plan.”

The public health director said the department would need schools to sign on to this.

“We do believe Le Roy is actually very close. We’ve been working with them. They may be getting a couple of these carts at their school over there. There’s several others that are interested. Some of the others have said they like the idea, but they’re too busy to deal with it right now,” Pettit said.

Pettit said his goal is to get the contract with Mobile in place so school districts can take advantage of the technology when they’re ready.

“We’re paying for it through the grant funds,” he said. “My hope is, this would be a sustainable access to care beyond COVID. Obviously, they (schools) would have to fund it after that point. If the school found value in continuing to have something like this for their staff, their students, they could continue on past our grant funds. They’d already have the relationship and they could continue to use it as a way to engage health care.”

Pettit said the department is doing the same program in Orleans County.

“From our perspective, it’s a bit of a pilot (program) too. This has not really been done much at this point, especially in the rural areas

The base pricing Mobile TeleMed proposes is $1,200 per cart per month or $13,200 for the year, or $1,000 per cart per month, per additional school building in a district. Training and Implementation would cost $500 per district. The base price would be $13,700 per district for one building. There is a small-school pricing option under which Mobile would charge $2 per district student per month. Districts would be charged whatever is the smaller lease amount, over 11 months, between these two options.

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