Letters to the Editor

By DailyCollegian.com Staff

Chris Shores/Collegian

To the Editor:

In her Nov. 13 story about operational changes at University Health Services (UHS), Collegian reporter Steffi Porter provided a balanced overview of the plan and reasons for the changes. I’d like to take this opportunity to continue the conversation, by sharing additional information about UHS finances and campus healthcare needs.

Here are some key facts:

In FY 2011, University Health Services had a $500,000 operating deficit. UHS undertook a comprehensive review of its operations and costs, commissioning a study by Hodgkin’s Beckley Consulting. The resulting changes in services and hours will save $1 million annually and allow UHS to provide high-quality healthcare in a financially responsible manner. This includes renovation or replacement of aging facilities that must occur to meet modern standards.

The $24 million budget is covered entirely by funds generated by UHS, an auxiliary university service. Financial restraints include insurance reimbursements not keeping pace with the cost of care, and no increase in the $654 annual Student Health Fee over the past five years. The FY 2011 budget by necessity planned for future needs. This included a $1.1 million allocation to a Repair and Replacement Fund, with $600,000 set aside for a mandated federal conversion to electronic medical records.

The main UHS facility has more than $5 million in deferred maintenance needs. UHS services are located across three aging sites on campus. The main facility, which is about 50 years old, was built to serve a smaller university population and was designed for inpatient care. Mental health care takes place in mixed-use buildings separate from the main facility. None of the buildings reflect current practices in ambulatory healthcare and mental health services.

The campus needs a renovated or new facility that meets healthcare standards and unites UHS services in one location. The initial estimate in the UMass Amherst capital plan is $35 million, but the project will likely cost more. Additional revenue must be part of the financing solution. This includes $1 million in annual savings from service reductions and $2.5 million annually through insurance coverage changes.

UHS will continue its role as an ambulatory, primary care outpatient facility. It has not been a critical care facility, and students with critical needs have always been sent by ambulance to a hospital. A 24-hour medical and mental health telephone triage service will remain available; students can receive advice from an on-call nurse or mental health counselor.

Healthcare is changing rapidly, and leaders must make difficult decisions that address today’s realities while creating a foundation for the future. We look forward to ongoing collaborations with our community, shaping an effective system of care now and in the years to come.

Sincerely,

Bernette A. Daly, Ed.D.

Executive Director