More students means more germs.
To meet the growing demand of a rising student population, the Health Center extended its hours as part of a new pilot program. However, those aren’t the only changes the Health Center could be facing.
The Health Center was previously open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Monday through Friday. As of last Monday, the hours extended to 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays by appointment, said Dr. David Harris, interim director of Health and Counseling Services.
If the pilot program is successful, the center will look to expand its hours more nights per week, with limited hours on Saturdays and Sundays, Harris said.
Harris said the schedule changed because that’s what students wanted. The Health Center faced two problems, staffing and financing.
“Staffing is very expensive,” Harris said. “Because you don’t just need a doctor; you need a doctor and a nurse and a lab tech and an X-ray tech and a pharmacist and a pharmacy tech and receptionists, so it just kind of mushrooms.”
One psychologist, one physician and one receptionist will be present at night, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., to conduct follow-up appointments, he said. That will open up 12 more appointment slots a week for the doctor and four more for counseling, he said.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey, new staff was hired to fill the evening shifts. Some even volunteered.
Historically, wellness only involved preventative medicine. Now, the Health Center is adopting a new approach, Harris said.
Every person has a “wellness wheel” that is comprised of a person’s physical wellness, emotional wellness, intellectual wellness, spiritual wellness, etc. The idea is to help people define which areas of their “wellness” need to be supported more than others, as well as give them access to programs and methods to support that, Harris said.
“In other words, try to make each person as completely whole as possible, and take on good lifestyle habits,” he said. “Just general ‘how to be well.’”
Another possible change to the Health Center could be the result of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
The potential impacts of the act are being analyzed at every level of administration, all the way to the chancellor’s office. The act “is going to affect everyone,” Harris said.
Since everyone would have insurance under Obamacare, there may be a change in billing students’ health insurance. Another change could be reevaluating the need for a health care fee at all.
However, Harris said a fee would always be necessary because it funds services, such as health education and outreach programs.
“So we can’t do away with it completely,” he said.
The increase in the student population will also affect the Health Center. First and foremost, Humphrey said more staff would need to be hired to meet demand.
Also, the Health Center is an old building meant for a smaller campus. Humphrey said the center may need to get creative about when and where it provides care. For example, a satellite in Poly Canyon Village two days a week or in the library one afternoon, Humphrey said. There are a lot of services the center can take out into the community, he said.
However, some things will remain the same. Both Humphrey and Harris want to continue the educational experience each student receives with their health visits.
When students come to the Health Center, it’s often the first time they are receiving health care without their parents. Helping students navigate the system and learn to make independent choices is important, Humphrey said.
“We try to provide that learning experience with every encounter here,” Harris said.
For the past five years, Harris was head of medical services. Four years before that, he was a staff physician at the Health Center, totaling his time at Cal Poly to nine years. He was an emergency room doctor for 10 years before spending 20 years in private practice, all within the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
When Dr. Martin Bragg retired this past week, Humphrey did not conduct a nationwide search for his replacement, and allowed Harris to step into the position for approximately one year. Humphrey said he wants to take a step back and examine Health and Counseling Services to see what changes and improvements need to be made before hiring a new director. Those steps will be included in the job description for the new leader, Humphrey said.
“One of the main reasons why I’m taking that step of not moving right into that search, when Dr. Bragg told me he was retiring, is because I’m new,” Humphrey said. “I don’t have as deep a knowledge as I would like about our health and counseling center to be able to clearly articulate what the next step is for it.”
The Health Center is free to students because of the health fee all students pay.