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May 5, 2017

UHS announces service changes

Josh Kellogg/Collegian

Josh Kellogg/Collegian

University Health Services (UHS) at the University of Massachusetts announced recently the decision to cut back on hours of operation, reduce laboratory services and eliminate its pharmacy, decisions some students feel will not serve their needs. UHS said these changes will help them to better serve students and save close to 1 million dollars.

Beginning at the close of the spring semester, UHS hours of operation will be Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. UHS will increase the volume of tests performed by its current external reference laboratory and the pharmacy will cease operation. With 219 current full-time positions, the changes will reduce staffing by 10 percent.

According to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, the money saved as a result of the cuts will be used to improve UHS services, including its facility, which he said is neither modern nor efficient. According to Blaguszewski, renovations or a new facility are possible in years to come.
Some students, though, do not feel a new facility should be a priority.

“I think it’s pretty ridiculous that they are trying to make the people who are the most sick and in need of health care pay for a possible building in the future,” said senior Mwanase Ahmed, who disagrees with UHS’s decisions and intends to attend a protest taking place Tuesday at noon, opposing the UHS cuts.

According to Blaguszewski, UHS decided to make certain changes after a comprehensive study revealed what is the most cost-effective and what other universities do in terms of available services and hours of operation.

“Ultimately, our charge is to provide quality health care to the university community,” said Blaguszewski. “We are making a number of changes so that we can move ahead in a financially responsible way and continue providing high quality health care to the university community.”

According to the studies conducted, during the academic year after 6 p.m. on weeknights, there is an average of only 12 patient visits, and only eight per day on weekends, numbers low enough that Blaguszewski and UHS are confident their changes will not negatively impact students.

However, graduate student Gene Barbara, an appointed member of the graduate student senate, feels differently.

“Medical needs never strike a student during class hours. We are human bodies that live 24 hours a day and therefore that is 24 hours a day that something could happen to us,” Barbara said. “I thought it was wonderful that UHS had their office open until midnight. Now we have to divert ourselves to the emergency rooms of a hospital and could wait a long time for health care.”

Barbara, who used to work in medicine as a clinician before coming to UMass to study architecture, said he intends to fight the UHS changes.

“The authorities governing UHS clinics need to hear from a student and from another professional who has a different perspective on how the hours are actually very beneficial,” said Barbara. “They could make a better educated decision and find a better compromise between the students’ needs and the needs of the university.”
Blaguszewski said that UHS is not certain how many people will be affected by the cuts, but that UHS staff will be affected, including people who work in the laboratory and pharmacy.

Though hours of operation and the pharmacy will be cut, Blaguszewski said it is important for students to understand that there is a 24-hour physical and mental health telephone line that students can call.

Senior Alex Carmona said the cuts are a result of under-funding and sees the cuts as, “only hurting the school,” and said, “cuts bring fewer resources for students.”

According to Blaguszewski, the decision to cut these positions as well as the pharmacy was made with the approval of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, as UHS worked closely with them to determine what changes should be made.

Blaguszewski said the lab cuts will not impact students, and that the pharmacy closing should also not have a negative impact. According to Blaguszewski, there are seven available pharmacies within a three-mile radius of the UMass campus, which are accessible on a bus line, including pharmacies in CVS, Wal-Mart, Target and the Amherst Pharmacy.

Steffi Porter can be reached at steffi@student.umass.edu.

 

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