Experiences with Health Services

By Lauren Vincent

I’ve dropped my sickly self off enough times at University Health Services to have acquired a frequent flyer miles card. I know the building’s layouts well enough to draw its blueprints, and I’ve spent more time wasting away in those waiting rooms than I care to admit.

Health Services’ staff do their best to provide healthcare privy to students’ needs. However, I’m sure there are certainly a number of improvements UHS could make to its system. So, I’m all for a set of sweeping changes within UHS so that the illnesses and injuries pushing us into its doors are the only painful part of the process.

However, the changes being proposed by the University will do the complete opposite of this. In fact, the proposed changes are all cuts, no additions and will make seeking healthcare far more difficult for University of Massachusetts students. Chancellor Robert Holub says that the changes will provide better healthcare to students, but somehow I fail to see how this could be.

The changes, which have been laid out before in the Collegian, include a reduction in weekend, night and holiday hours, elimination of the UHS pharmacy, cuts to 10 percent of the UHS staff and construction a new facility which would encompass of all UHS services, which are currently housed in three separate buildings. While a new UHS building would be fantastic, cutting services and jobs to make that happen is a mistake.

There is already at least an hour of waiting time to see a UHS medical provider, without an appointment. I highly doubt that having fewer staff members will make the process go more quickly. As students, most of us are very busy and spending a chunk of our day waiting for care is a burden on our schedules. Even when appointments are made, which I try to have the foresight to do, long wait times persist. And in emergencies, these kinds of lines can deter students from getting care when they need it. A smaller staff guarantees a longer wait, and would likely result in more sick students walking around campus infecting passersby.

Eliminating the UHS pharmacy is another change that would burden students and deter them from treating their symptoms. The pharmacy is conveniently located on campus. An extra trip off campus can be a hardship for students who don’t own a car, especially when they are already ill.

This hardship will grow even bigger for these students when UHS is closed weekends, holidays and at night, which may be the only time that some students can seek healthcare. This will require them to go the nearest hospital, Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, which is a 20-minute drive, which is bad enough, but for students without a car, a 30-minute bus ride followed by another half hour of walking awaits their already weakened bodies. It’s a cruel fate.

We all understand the financial realities facing our campus result in some services being cut. However, I don’t think a trade off between a better building for cosmetic or whatever reasons and indispensable services from sick students, is a fair one at all.

It is simply a signal from the administration that the students come last once again. There has got to be a better solution to solve financial problems than taking away the rights of students to excellent and timely medical care by their University. If these changes take place, UMass students will be left out in the cold, sick and miserable.

But hey, at least they’ll have another pretty building to look at.