Students voice concerns about Health Services

When sick, students depend on Health Services to provide them with adequate care and medicine. However, during this past flu season, Health Services was not as reliable as students and parents had expected.Danica Clark, a junior marketing major, went to the infirmary at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15. Before entering, Clark read the posted sign stating the infirmary would not be accepting new patients at that time. The sign listed names of several walk-in clinics along with their telephone numbers.

“My mom encouraged me to go to the infirmary,” Clark said. “Since the visit would have been free, and I didn’t have to leave campus, we figured it was my best bet. When the sign said they weren’t accepting new patients at the time, I knew I was out of luck.”

Shelby McDonald, sophomore journalism major, reported a similar experience. At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, McDonald walked into the infirmary.

“When I got there, they asked if I could come back later on. I told them I had a class and I would be back as soon as it was over,” McDonald said. “When I got back around 11:30, there was a sign on the door that said they had exceeded their number of patients for the day, and the door was locked.”

Clark and McDonald both saw a physician at Satellite Med, a walk-in clinic located on Sams Street in Cookeville. Convenient Care Clinic, located on South Lowe Avenue in Cookeville, and Satellite Med both reported an increase in patients from Tech.

Students and parents alike became frustrated with the lack of availability and services. For the month of February, Health Services was open on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday the infirmary opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 11:30 a.m.

“When I’m sick,” said Taylor Hensley, senior education major from Kingsport, Tenn.,”the last thing I feel like doing is rushing to the doctor’s office. Since the infirmary was only open for two and a half hours a day four days a week, I had no choice. Luckily, I made it to the infirmary in time to see a doctor.”

Each semester, every student is required to pay a $20 health services fee as part of the Student Activities Fee. The fee is said to cover students’ visits to the infirmary. When needed, medication, laboratory work, procedures, and medical supplies are charged to students at cost. On Feb. 14, the Tennessee Board of Regents voted to raise the fee for the 2011-2012 school year by $10.

So, where is the money going? Why, at the peak of flu season, were students unable to receive the health care for which they had already paid? How could the infirmary not accept new patients after Health Services had collected every student’s money?

When asked why there was a decline in services and availability during the peak of flu season, Health Services reported they did not have a director at the time.

“We were in the process of hiring a new director,” said Cynthia Tompkins, Health Services assistant director. “We can only see patients when there is a director or a nurse practitioner here. Since we were in between directors, we were relying on our part-time nurse practitioner and her availability. That’s why our hours were so different.”

When asked why the hiring process was taking such a long time, Health Services said they wanted to ensure the appropriate physician or nurse practitioner was hired.

Health Services hired Leigh Ann Ray as the new director and family nurse practitioner. Her tenure began March 1.

Health Services’ hours have returned to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Call 931-372-3320 with any questions.