Town Meeting is coming up in Wilmington on Tuesday, March 5. Apparently under-informed about the vital role our town nurse, Jennifer Fitzgerald, R.N., plays in our community, the budgeting folks cut her salary and billable hours in half. The rationale is that Bayada and the Visiting Nurses program (out of Springfield) will be taking on more responsibility for medical management here in the valley. Where have we heard that before? Yes, of course, our nurse can take blood pressure, administer shots, and cut toenails. But those tasks are not what she really does.
What no one else can ever do as well is to undergird the chronically ill and elderly population. I think of her as the quietly operating ligament system that connects person to person and buttresses the physical and mental health care in the valley. She has been doing this job for 30 years. She knows everyone, who their relatives are, what is the climate in the family. She is part nurse, part social worker with an extraordinary ability to network and discover resources. Ask any of the families in the valley with whom she has worked.
We have a gem here, a local treasure. Very likely when Jennifer retires the town will not have another town nurse position largely because a new person cannot possibly know all the things Jennifer knows and we might as well give up and live with limited services from elsewhere.
Someone has to stand up in Town Meeting and ask for an amendment to the general fund for line item 156 and restore the hours for this position. Those of you who have benefited for 30 years from Jennifer’s equipment storehouse in her barn, from her interventions to find you caretakers, from her support when you are caring for an elderly or disabled relative, need to write letters to the newspaper explaining the value of what she does and to email firstname.lastname@example.org asking for support for this reversal.