Illness Does Not Comply to Business Hours

I still remember the day I got a text telling me that one of my roommates was going to the ER. I could feel my heart leap into my throat. I already knew she wasn’t feeling well, but had it really been that much worse than I imagined? Or had it gotten worse since I last saw her? Was she okay? Was she going to be okay?

As it turns out, it was just a urinary tract infection, something that the Student Health Services (SHS) on Oxford’s campus could have diagnosed and provided treatment for. It was a shame, then, that it was six o’clock in the evening. If it had been an hour earlier in the day, we all could’ve avoided a chaotic drive, hours of anxiety and an eight-hundred-dollar hospital bill.

Oxford Student Health Services is supposed to be the most accessible clinic for students. The title of their page on the website even reads in big, bold letters, “Helping keep you healthy.” However, due to limited hours, staffing and services, SHS doesn’t live up to many of its promises.

Oxford Student Health Services is only open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays – excluding the 12 to 1 pm lunch hour. Students who fall ill early in the morning, in the evenings or on the weekends are out of luck until the doors open again. If an emergency occurs and immediate care is necessary, students are going to have to look elsewhere.

These issues are only compounded upon by the rules of Emory student health insurance. Aetna sometimes will charge a higher copay and coinsurance rate if a student using it goes to a preferred provider instead of one of the “core network” providers. For example, if a student has to get treated for an injury or illness through another service provider, these rates will increase, even if the student only went to another provider because SHS wasn’t available at the time they needed it.

This is also assuming that the healthcare provider the student goes to actually accepts the insurance Emory provides. For the Emory insurance to cover medical expenses, an Emory physician has to either provide the treatment or give a referral to another physician – which, of course, requires for the clinic on campus to be open. Therefore, students who end up in emergency situations that result in a hospital visit will still pay out of pocket.

Even if someone does get sick or injured during regular business hours, SHS can only provide limited service. The clinic can only prescribe 30 different medications, such as antibiotics – not medications for conditions like ADHD or anxiety. This means that students will have to find other pharmacies to get their medication. Having to use another pharmacy, of course, could result in additional out of pocket costs if the student wasn’t able to get a referral from Oxford.

Some of the issues with SHS come down just to staffing. SHS only has one actual physician; the rest are all nurse-practioners, and there are only so many on staff. Hiring a few more hands would never hurt, especially if it meant that SHS could expand some of its hours. Being half-staffed on weekends, later in the evenings and/or during the lunch break would mean that students would be able to at least get some medical care on campus when they get sick or hurt at odder times.

The limitation to prescriptions is understandable; after all, medications could be easily abused, especially drugs like Adderall. However, this issue could be at least somewhat addressed by having an on-campus psychiatrist who would be capable of diagnosing students with these conditions or disorders. This way, if students wanted to be able to get those medications from the clinic, Oxford could require them to get approval to get those medications through their own system, cutting down on some abuse. Also, perhaps expanding Emory’s insurance to cover more outside medical care sources could resolve some of the issues, especially on the Oxford campus, where the nearest hospital does not count as an Emory provider.

SHS is right to say on their website that staying healthy is an essential part of the college experience. Illness and injury can affect students’ ability to attend classes, be involved on campus and maintain the social life young adults need. But, for that optimum college experience, we also need that optimum health care experience – and right now, that is something Oxford College sorely lacks.

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