Health care is a concern for many college students, especially those who are away from home for the first time. The on-campus Health Center is an important resource for more common ailments but is plagued with long wait times and limited emergency and after-hours care.
“The students pay a health services fee when they register so they can come to the Health Center and see our doctors, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants without charge,” said Martin Bragg, director of Health and Counseling Services.
There are many on-site services available besides examinations with a physician.
“We have a very good pharmacy and a full range of medications we can prescribe,” said Dr. David Harris, the head of Medical Services.
“We also have a full range of laboratory testing and pharmaceuticals are available, all free or at a very reasonable cost to the patient.”
Most of the time, students come in with minor illnesses and ailments.
“It depends on the time of the year,” Harris said. “Most commonly we see sore throats, coughs and colds. But always in there are sprinkled the athletic injuries, skateboard and bicycle accidents and those types of things.”
For math freshman Stephen Schaffner, a bicycle mishap is exactly what brought him in for treatment.
“I was leaving my house, late for class, when my foot slipped off the pedal,” Schaffner said. “I hit the middle bar and my foot dragged along on the ground.”
After making a trip to the Health Center, Schaffner said he received pretty good advice on caring for his injury.
“They told me just to make sure and keep it clean,” Schaffner said. “I’m supposed to go back if I have any problems with infection, but I think I’ll be OK.”
Harris said strep throat and respiratory infections are quite common, especially at this time of the year.
Bragg added that the flu is no stranger to the campus, but can have serious consequences.
“A true flu can put a student out for an entire week,” Bragg said. “On a campus with a quarter system, that’s just no good.”
The Health Center is currently offering flu shots for $15 and no appointment is necessary.
Architecture junior Jaclyn Shor was an example of how illness can affect school performance.
“I came down really sick with pneumonia,” Shor said. “I missed most of the first four weeks of class and it has taken its toll on me and my schoolwork.”
For more serious or after-hours care, the Health Center is not always the best option.
“The first thing I would say is that if you are seriously injured, call 9-1-1 right away or go immediately to the emergency room,” Harris said.
“Obviously, if you have a compound fracture with the bone sticking out, don’t hesitate. But if you are able to walk, then come here first so we can assess you,” he said.
While going to another facility like the nearby Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center or French Hospital Medical Center will not be free like a visit to the Health Center, most students have insurance that will help cover the cost.
In fact, Bragg quoted their most recent survey showing that approximately 80 percent of students have private insurance options through their parents. He said insurance was only really necessary for situations dealing with after-hours care, as well as specialty and hospital needs.
Although Schaffner has Kaiser insurance coverage through his parents, he said he knew he could come to the Health Center and receive good care.
The Health Center tends to have long lines, especially during certain times of the day.
“Our wait times are always a problem,” Harris said. “We have surges of students that come usually right after the classes are over.”
The busiest times are from 2 to 4 p.m., so Harris encourages students to come early in the morning between 8 and 10 a.m.
“That is usually our very low time (for waiting),” he said.