Report finds UHCS improving

A preliminary report has been issued by a Faculty Senate committee convened to investigate conditions at University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS).

The report, which is being called a draft and was released Aug. 31, made three primary recommendations for improving UHCS. It did not make any recommendations regarding staffing levels, which has been the center’s primary concern over the past year and a half, as more than 20 staff members left in 16 months.

The report says establishing strong student-healthcare provider bonds should be a priority for UHCS in the coming year.

“The UHCS structure should address student desire to form a relationship with a care provider,” the report said.

“It comes up as [students asking] ‘Who do I see if I have a problem? My person isn’t there anymore,'” said Carol Glod, chair of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee. “We want students to develop a relationship with their primary care provider.”

Glod, a nursing professor, did not sit on the committee, but has been following the developments closely with committee members and said she was familiar with the report.

UHCS Executive Director Roberta Berrien said UHCS has recently taken more steps to ensure students can see their primary care provider.

“All of our medical clinicians also have an evening each week and a Saturday each month that they work so that if the students for whom they are the [primary care provider] are on co-op, the students can find appointment time to come in,” she said in an e-mail.

The report also recommends that UHCS pay more attention to communicating to students their options to receive follow-up care. The report says students indicated some “confusion” in what the next steps were after an initial visit.

To remedy that problem, UHCS has installed a new records system. Once a student’s record is entered, a log of the student’s visits will be on file with the university.

Susan Dye, the Student Government Association vice president for student services, said the new records system helps identify students as needing follow-up care. Referrals to other medical facilities will be recorded, as well as those who need follow-up care.

“That ensures that no students fall through the cracks for more serious things, because that’s why students get referrals – for more serious conditions,” she said.

In a third recommendation, the committee said UHCS needs to promote the options it provides to students for care more clearly.

“The need for clearer communication of what services can be accommodated was also an emerging theme,” the report states.

Berrien said the center was in the midst of updating its website in order to inform students more clearly of what services it provides.

“Although we do provide urgent care, that is meant to be within the scope of primary care,” she said in an e-mail.

The recommendations were based on input from students, UHCS administration and staff, and a review of UHCS budgets by the committee.

UHCS has been in a period of transition over the last two years.

Following the university’s decision to combine its medical facility and mental health counseling services into one building, and renovate the first floor of the Forsyth Building to accommodate the merger, the center was hit with a period of departures that left the staff depleted.

Only three staff members remain since the beginning of the transition period, according to a UHCS staff member.

The center has hired a number of new staff members, including 12 primary care providers, in the wake of the departures.

Last year, the center relied on a large number of part-time staff.

Dye said she was under the impression that the temporary nature of the staff in place “created tension,” but many full-time employees have since been hired.

The Faculty Senate committee, which is made up of Dye, four faculty members and university Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Philomena Mantella, was convened by the Faculty Senate in the wake of the transition.

“When we hear concerns, it becomes our job as the faculty to help students access good health care,” Glod said.

The committee’s work is still not done, according to the report. Members plan to conduct a survey of students, faculty, staff and current and former UHCS staff.

The report also recommended that the committee be reappointed for the 2006-2007 academic year to continue their work.

The entire three-page report is available at facultysenate.neu.edu.

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