Editorial: Simmons Health Center falls short of student needs

According to the Simmons Health Center’s website, “[the Health Center] offers health care to Simmons undergraduate and graduate students, and is a provider of health services to students at other area colleges as well. Services are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day during the academic year either at the Center, or when the Center is closed, by telephone contact with the provider on call.”

Although they do indeed provide all the services they advertise, this statement can be rather misleading. While the center does give students the option to contact an on-call provider for after-hours issues, the majority of services that students could need access to the health center for are only available during their normal business hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

While providing emergency and urgent care during strange hours of the morning and night is undeniably important, and having resources such as on-call health care providers is a great benefit to students, the fact remains that the Health Center itself is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and this prevents students from accessing the more routine or non-emergent care that may not warrant a call to the on-call provider about that students nonetheless need.

Since the hours of the Health Center span the hours of an average day of classes, labs, work, and the whole host of other commitments that students have, finding time to visit the Health Center within their operating hours can prove difficult.

It would benefit everyone to have the Health Center open more than five days a week.

For many students, the weekend provides the opportunity to catch up on anything they were too busy to get to during the week, and this often can include matters of health. Even if—especially if—it’s something minor a student may find that the best, or only, time they can find in their schedule falls on a weekend or holiday. They just want that reassurance and professional medical solace that a collegiate health center provides.

Above all, there is the issue of ease. The residence campus dining hall is open on weekends, because eating is a basic human need. So is health care.

Everyone deserves this security. Why complicate something so basic? Full-time health services should be inherent in a college setting. Why should our students—and anyone for that matter—be denied peace of mind knowing that they can seek care during the time that they have free?

Students who contract illnesses, particularly strains of flu, norovirus, etc., early in the weekend are required to suspend treatment until the health center re-opens several days later. People who have recently had unprotected sex and want to counteract the negative possibilities as soon as possible should have access to emergency contraceptives without having to seek care outside the health center.

Additionally, many students are referred to emergency care, but refrain from seeking medical help at local emergency rooms due to trepidation about the expenses. Similarly, not all students require emergency care, and advising students to seek attention from medical professionals in an urgent-care setting deters health care providers from attending to people with actual medical emergencies.

Denying students access to health care on weekends by limiting the health center hours to Monday-Friday sends the message that students’ health is only important when it is convenient to a typical 40-hour workweek. We cannot simultaneously exist as a “student-centered” college while failing to address the lack of accessibility in health services to our own student population.