Last week, the Health Center announced that it is cutting its Saturday hours, effective Oct. 22, as a result of a diminished staff. According to an e-mail from Martha O’Brien, the Director of Student Health Services, sent to the Trinity community, the Health Center had to cut its hours because it has lost some of its workers “due to a variety of reasons, including departures and medical leaves.” When asked about why exactly staff members were leaving the Health Center, O’Brien said that as the healthcare industry continues to evolve, there are job opportunities for nurses and doctors elsewhere that offer “competitive salaries,” making it more difficult for Trinity to retain highly-trained physicians. The hope, according to O’Brien, is that this change in hours is only temporary.
The Health Center cannot provide high-quality service with fewer people unless it scales back its hours of operation. In her e-mail, O’Brien added a few solutions that can help students work around this obstacle if they need medical attention on weekends. She suggested that students with questions call the advice nurse through the Health Center main phone (860-297-2018), and if they need to be examined by a professional, they can go to the walk-in clinic at the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group on Main Street in West Hartford. What’s more, as part of the Health Center’s arrangement with Hartford HealthCare, Campus Safety can drive students who are without a personal form of transportation.
The Health Center’s foremost concern is providing the highest quality of healthcare possible. During our interview, O’Brien said, “part of the decision to reduce operational hours is to ensure the overall quality of care is maintained.” Otherwise, the Health Center would be stretching its staff members too thin if it did nothing to adapt to this new situation.
While ailing Trinity students may not have the convenience of walking over to the Health Center on a Saturday afternoon, this change does not put anyone in a situation of heightened risk. The walk-in clinic serves the same purpose as the Health Center. Any student who wishes to be evaluated on the weekend has the opportunity to do so.
At this point in time, due to financial constraints, the Health Center is unable to hire additional staff who can handle both the traditional functions of Health Center physicians and “new campus health initiatives,” according to O’Brien. Essentially, the Health Center lacks the resources necessary to fill all of the positions that were vacated in the past year.
That being said, staff reductions have not negatively impacted the Health Center’s efficiency at all. During the interview, O’Brien explained that the Health Center has already treated more patients so far this year than it during the same time frame last year. She explained that “last year seven providers covered just under 1500 visits. This year three providers have handled close to 2000 visits.” The Health Center is more understaffed than it would like to be during the school year, but those who still work during the 49-hour week have increased their productivity.
Dean of Student Life Joe DiChristina feels confident that the Health Center has taken constructive measures in making up for the lost hours. He echoed O’Brien’s beliefs that directing the Health Center’s focus on treating students on weekdays is most important, as that is when the most students need medical attention. Addressing the possibility that students will need an evaluation on a Saturday, DiChristina reiterated O’Brien, saying: “The Health Center and Campus Safety have worked together to provide assistance to students that may ask for a ride to local medical centers on Saturdays so that students who need an evaluation can access it”. Dean DiChristina made no comment as to the administration’s reaction to the cutbacks. He largely provided the same information O’Brien did, but he did mention that, “We have advertised for a temporary nurse to help us at the Health Center while we support one of our staff members that is on medical leave”.
All things considered, even if the Health Center cannot find a temporary nurse, the reduction of hours will not make a dramatic difference to the Trinity community, which is a significant upside to the current problem. With increased staff help during the week and a viable alternative on Saturdays, students need not worry about receiving the medical attention they require.