Thursday, August 14, 2003

Mason fitness center explored


School officials to negotiate with hospital

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Mason School officials will negotiate with Middletown Regional Hospital to create what could become a $300,000 health and fitness program in Mason's high school and adjoining community recreation center.

The sweeping health initiative was one of three submitted to the Mason Board of Education by area hospitals, and the board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to begin negotiations with the Middletown hospital officials after their presentation. "We think this would be a good partnership," Middletown Regional Hospital President and CEO Douglas McNeill told the school board.

The health program, if approved by board members, would be phased in and initially would provide Mason schools with an athletic trainer, a strength and conditioning coach for student athletes and an after-school physical therapist. Middletown would also provide about $20,000 in equipment and begin working with Mason curricula developers to create sports medicine and health and wellness classes this school year for Mason students.

Eventually, the hospital would also offer adult health education, exercise and some medical services through the Mason Recreation Center.

Hospital officials estimated that eventually, the partnership would become a $300,000 program with no cost to Mason schools.

The proposed program would cover its expenses through revenue from billable medical services - that may later include on-site physicians and specialists - provided by the hospital through the Mason recreation center, explained hospital officials.

"Middletown provided the most vision and opportunities, not only for students, but for our staff and community," said Mason Superintendent Kevin Bright.

Parent Inez Moses isn't sold on the proposal, which board members will reconsider later this month, but said, "I do like that they are exploring it."

Another Mason parent, John Young, especially liked the program's proactive, educational approach to keeping students healthy.

"The best way to heal an injury is to prevent an injury," he said.

But fellow school parent Cathy Harbison cautioned the school board not to be swayed by the promise of no cost to the schools and also not to assume Mason parents would want medical services from a Middletown-based hospital when Cincinnati-based hospitals are building new facilities near the southern Warren County city.

"Cheap is not always the best. I challenge you to look at this carefully and not be a rubber stamp for this," Harbison told the board.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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