For many students, college is a time of immense adjustment, leaving home and attempting to navigate as an independent individual for the first time in their lives. One of the many new responsibilities for students is making their own doctor’s appointments. For this reason, it is especially important that the University ensures, that the health needs of all students are adequately addressed.
Elson Student Health Center seeks to provide “high-quality, accessible medical care in a confidential and sensitive manner.” The Center, however, is only open on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Their promise of “accessible medical care” is, therefore, not necessarily true. These hours present a serious barrier for students seeking medical attention through the University’s Student Health Department.
For one, Student Health is supposed to serve as a resource for University students, who often have classes throughout the day. As a result of these classes, students have limited availability to schedule an appointment during the Center’s hours. With the high demand of Student Health’s services — especially during flu seasons on Grounds — appointments can fill up, and students may need to wait days to find an appointment that fits in their schedule.
Additionally, as the length of a visit is often unknown beforehand, students are in a tough situation when attempting to schedule an appointment in between classes, not wanting to miss the start of a class because their visit went longer than expected. The limited hours of the Center — particularly when taken into account with the schedule of University students — provide an obstacle for students seeking medical care.
This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Student Health is closed on the weekends. Because this is the best time for most students to schedule appointments, providing appointments on these days would enable students to have easier access to medical care. Student Health is the only accessible inexpensive health care for many students — especially for students without access to a car. Students with medical issues who are not able to make an appointment before the Center closes on Friday may be forced to go through the entire weekend without access to this medical care. The resources provided at Student Health are indispensable to students, and these resources should be open for students on weekends if they need them.
Student Health does not claim to be a resource for students with serious medical issues — in the case of an emergency, the Center does advise that students call an ambulance. However, students with medical issues that do not require an ambulance still need medical care, and Student Health is supposed to serve as their primary resource. When it is closed, the Center does offer a phone number for students to call to discuss medical issues. Moreover, students with urgent medical care can receive care at the U.Va. Hospital Emergency Room.
However, students may be wary of using the services at the emergency room, unsure of whether or not their condition counts as urgent. The cost of emergency room services would also deter students, as the price of an emergency department visit for a minor problem is listed at $374. Student Health offers consultations that have already been paid for through the comprehensive student fee. Additionally, students with non-urgent concerns about their health should not have to wait two full days to schedule an appointment, nor should they have to find an off-Grounds medical care facility to provide care on the weekends.
Even when taking into account these problems, it is important to note that Student Health is definitely making strides towards becoming accessible for all students. Their focus on LGBTQ+ Health Care is a big step in the right direction for accessibility, especially with the discrimination posed to transgender individuals in a health care setting. However, the Center must strive to be as accessible as possible for every student. Providing more accessible hours and remaining open during weekends are vital steps in creating completely accessible medical care services for students at the University.
Becoming almost completely independent is a huge change for almost all new college students — and that change can be a scary and stressful one. The University needs to recognize this, while also acknowledge the faults thay exist in our current student medical system. Access to medical care is extremely important in order to ensure that all members at the University are able to adequately address their health concerns.
Zack Pasciak is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.