Credit: Carolyne Sysmans | Mustang News

With the implementation of the $99 health fee increase per quarter beginning Fall 2018, students are already seeing improved wait times at the Health Center.

The health fee increase was introduced Fall 2017, but did not apply to current Cal Poly students when it was first approved. However, the fee increase began to apply to the tuition of newly admitted students this quarter — including all 5,728 first-time students, transfer students and new graduate and post-baccalaureate students.

According to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Health and Wellbeing Tina Hadaway-Mellis, the new health fees go directly toward expanding health services to students.

“The intent of the fee is and will be to improve students’ access — and ease of access — to providers,” Hadaway-Mellis said.

“The intent of the fee is and will be to improve students’ access — and ease of access — to providers”

The money from the health fee totals to about $567,000 for Fall 2018 and has so far been used to hire eight new staff members.

Within the last six months, one full-time medical doctor, one full-time registered nurse, two full-time health educators, three early intervention specialists and one radiologic technologist were hired, increasing the Health Center staff from 26 to 34 people. 

“As a student Health Center, this is really a one-stop care [place] for our students,” Hadaway-Mellis said. “We have pharmacy services, lab services, radiology services, counseling services, health education and wellbeing services and medical services.”

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With more staff available, the Health Center hopes to meet with more students and to decrease wait times. According to Hadaway-Mellis, data on wait times taken in October shows that, on average, students appear to be waiting less than 30 minutes to be seen.

From Sept. 1, 2017 to Nov. 30, 2017, the Health Center saw 9,188 patients. During that same time frame this year, the Health Center saw 9,601 students.

Over the next four years, the health fee will continue to go toward hiring more staff.

“When the fee is fully funded by year four, I think we’ll really be able to see a bigger impact,” Hadaway-Mellis said.

“When the fee is fully funded by year four, I think we’ll really be able to see a bigger impact”

In the past, students have expressed frustration toward a lack of access to counseling services if their situation is deemed not critical. Hadaway-Mellis said hiring the three early intervention specialists is meant to help improve students’ experience and perceptions surrounding counseling services.

“The three new hires that were made, the early intervention specialists, are in direct response to that perception, that feeling from students,” Hadaway-Mellis said. “[There will be] a little bit easier access, not at that critical ring or that center of maybe suicidal ideation or other critical mental health issues … we’re going out of just a couple more rings to catch students a little bit earlier and help give them some tools.”

The health fee also allows the Health Center to hire two additional health educators. According to Director of Wellbeing and Health Education Genie Kim, these new hires will help educate students about how the Health Center is a resource to them and to clear up these misconceptions about the Health Center.

“That team of our health educators are able to develop those messages and be able to go out beyond the walls of the Health Center and engage the student population to help guide and inform students of all of the great work being done inside the building,” Kim said.

The radiologic technologist was hired to also serve as a medical assistant. They are able to help physicians, in addition to performing x-rays. Hadaway-Mellis said staff members like a radiologic technologist are what allow the Health Center to provide many different types of healthcare services, instead of sending the student to a third-party emergency room.

The new Health Center staff is the first change made with the implementation of the fee increase. All other planned changes will be made over the next few years.

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