Music freshman Mike Kelton just wanted someone to tell him what was wrong with his right arm.

Jess Cox
Students wait in line at University Health Services yesterday afternoon.
(TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily)

After injuring it while working out at the CCRB earlier this semester, he sought treatment at University Health Services. But after waiting more than two hours to be seen by the nurse practitioner, he was fed up.

“They just weren’t responding,” he said.

UHS told him that his arm could feel better “tomorrow or in a month.” He decided that next time he needed care, he would go to the hospital.

Kelton is part of a vocal segment of the student body that is disillusioned with UHS, a University clinic that is partially funded by student fees.

UHS allows students unlimited visits and access to various medical specialists through referrals.

Some students claim UHS is reluctant to prescribe medications, employs under-qualified staff and has long lines for walk-in appointments that make it difficult to squeeze in a visit between classes.

UHS Director Robert Winfield refutes these claims, saying cases like Kelton’s do exist, but are the minority.

Most of the 300 patients that come through UHS each day quickly receive premium care by one of 14 board-certified doctors, he said.

“Students who get good care don’t talk about it – if you come in for a yeast infection or herpes (and receive good care), you aren’t going to tell your friend about it,” Winfield said. “Bad news spreads fast, and good news is not talked about in the health care world.”

Winfield cited a 1999-2000 survey of graduate and undergraduate students on campus, which asked them to rank UHS and their family practitioners on a scale of one to four. At the final count, UHS and family doctors tied with a 3.42 quality rating.

Acknowledging that lines are sometimes a problem, Winfield said the easiest way to avoid a long wait is by making an appointment or coming in before 11 a.m.

Winfield also recognized that many students who come in with sniffles looking for antibiotics leave the clinic disappointed, but said it is not because UHS providers don’t want to help students.

UHS policy, which dictates that health care providers not issue antibiotics for viral afflictions, is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and is part of an effort to reduce development of drug-resistant strains.

Despite some students’ concerns that UHS doctors may be crunching too many patients into tight schedules, Winfield said his staff typically sees 18 to 20 patients per day, in 15-minute slots. That’s generous compared to family practitioners, who often see five or more patients per hour, he said.

Regardless of these concerns, many students who have used UHS report high-quality, convenient care.

Kinesiology junior Jeff Spencer went to the clinic after injuring his shoulder in an attempt to make an interception during a flag football game.

“The physician was very knowledgeable,” he said. “They gave me medication and told me how to rehabilitate.”

Winfield stressed that UHS takes complaints seriously, and is “always, always trying to make the quality of health care better.”

“When (service) breaks down, it’s not typically due to the person not caring – it may be due to the system, maybe we don’t have the right process (or) the right knowledge,” he said. “The people that work here want to be here and want to do a good job.”

 

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