Student Health Center a main focus in all campaigns

Julie Knapp

With the Flu bug flying around campus, the Student Health Center is filling up fast. The problem is, they have reached their capacity.

The problem is at the top of both president and vice president’s lists, when it comes to areas that need improvement.

Iris Gonzalez, director of health services, said that numbers of patients seen has risen rapidly since August 2001. During the ’01 – ’02 school year, the center saw 7,713 patients. During the ’03-’04 school year, that number jumped to approximately 10,000 students when the center added a nurse practitioner.

“We’ve really reached our capacity with two providers and two exam rooms,” said Gonzalez.

She also said that she is aware of the long wait times during certain hours of the day. One idea is to add another mid-level provider, like a nurse practitioner, but Gonzalez noted that there isn’t enough funding to provide for an addition like this. She said a $10 student health fee might help, or charging students different fees for different services provided. Another problem is there is not enough space for another provider with only two exam rooms.

Vince Bowhay and Lacey Keller, candidates for president and vice president said they wanted to form ┬Ča committee to study what is happening at the health center because they had heard of students being referred out.

Bowhay said he was concerned with the health of students.

“If people are saying this so loud, something needs to happen,” said Bowhay

To remedy the problems, Gonzalez said there could be talks of working with the School of Nursing facilities, but nothing has been fully set in motion.

“We need more money, more space and more people to meet the need,” said Gonzalez. “There is such a high demand for our services and we are struggling to meet the need.”

There is currently a survey being conducted to find out what students want from the Student Health Center. The survey includes questions about convenient times to see the providers and what services students would like available at the center. Gonzalez said she would like the survey to reach at least 30 percent of students.

Nick Woolery and Andrea Chancey, candidates for president and vice president, said they are ready to work with the administration on this problem, because they think WSGA can help if it is a funding problem.

Along with hours, the survey would provide data that could contribute to the foundation of a small pharmacy that would provide low-cost birth control for students. According to Gonzalez, when President Bush passed the Deficit Reduction Act, the ability for student health departments to carry low-cost birth control was wiped out.

Gonzalez said the wait time is significantly lower in the morning hours, so she urged students who need care to go to the Student Health Center before 10:30 a.m., when wait times are shortest.

“We have to spend some time with people to figure out what is wrong,” said Gonzalez. “We have a high standard of medical care.”

Woolery and Chancey have also developed other ideas for dealing with the problem that include setting aside time for students to make appointments.

“No one is going to the doctor, because they don’t want to sit over there and wait,” said Chancey.

Both candidate pairs are seeing putting this issue as one of their main concerns.

“I think something that’s that big of a concern to students obviously needs to be addressed,” said Woolery.