Mercy Fort Smith, who will, as of the first of the year, be operating Booneville Community Hospital expressed an interest in a school-based wellness center the Booneville School Board has been considering.

Dr. Keith Bolyard, a Mercy employee, addressed the board first Tuesday.

"One of the developments with Mercy being more in town with the hospital (is) there is a clinic component and Mercy has done some school-based clinics and it would seem to me appropriate to have Mercy at least put their hat in the ring," said Bolyard, before he introduced Cole Goodman, president of the Mercy Clinic.

Goodman said Mercy will be opening a school-based clinic in Cedarville in January, and that one was opened in September in Mansfield and that Mercy partners with one in Lavaca, and another in the works for Waldron.

That clinic was established under the leadership of then-superintendent Jared Cleveland, who addressed the board in November.

"I was asked if Mercy would be interested," said Goodman. "Mercy would be very interested in looking at the possibility. We would hope that if there’s any way we could help you, whether you choose Mercy or not, we’ll be available to help."

Besides Goodman, Bolyard and C. David Hill, the administrator of Booneville Community Hospital also offered help regardless of the selection of a proprietor for the clinic.

Dr. Richard Eccles, who operates Eccles Pediatric and Internal Medicine in Booneville, attended the November meeting with Cleveland and has been invited to make a formal presentation to the board in January. Mercy will also be making a pitch at the next meeting as well, resulting in a 5 p.m. starting time on Jan. 14.

Goodman added that Mercy would afford something other providers may not be able to provide, such as an electronic medical record system. That, he said, would connect the clinic with the hospital here and the Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith.

"If it has to be that you have a child that has to have some sort of esoteric specialty care the clinic nurse and the child’s physician can follow that child’s progress from here," said Goodman.

Goodman used the Joplin, Mo., hospital destruction during a tornado that resulted in no lab work, x-rays and such being recreated.

Hill added the electronic system will be added to the Magazine clinic the hospital oversees.

Superintendent John. K. Parrish asked how many hours per week the school could expect to see a doctor in a clinic should one be opened.

Goodman said he could not say for sure how long an MD or DO would be on site, but in Mansfield the clinic has two AP nurses who collaborate with a doctor and in Cedarville there is one who collaborates with a doctor. He added that a physician with a practice in the building would likely be there most of the time.

Parrish said the plans were, if a grant is approved, to allow the clinic to renovate the existing administration building, with the partner helping with the design, and the school build another building for administration.

Parrish also said the plan is to open the clinic to the public on day one.

In the Magazine clinic, operated by BCH, the staffing is by an APN three half days per week, with an additional half day open only to the public, Hill said.

In that time, he said, eight t0 10 school patients are seen each day and about 10 public patients on that day.

Hill also noted that the Magazine clinic is a Rural Health Clinic which means reimbursements are on a cost basis rather than a Medicaid patient resulting in a $25 or $30 payment to a physician, the payment would be more than $100.

But a Rural Health Clinic, Hill said, cannot be staffed solely by a physician but has to have at least a nurse practitioner to qualify.

When asked by Parrish if he knew how many clinics had a full time physician Goodman said he did not but added most are staffed with APNs.

Goodman also offered the services of a man named Grant Morris to help with the grant. Board member Mike Farris indicated a meeting with Morris should be held as soon as possible, "to get the ball rolling."

"We want to have as much information as we can to help our students, and we appreciate you three gentlemen coming," Parrish said.

Parrish would later recommend the board approve, which it did, hiring a grant writer to assist with process. The deadline to apply for a grant for a clinic is April 1, Parrish said.