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Health Center may need a check-up of its own

Sniffling students enveloped in sweatshirts and blankets have been coughing up phlegm, spit and some criticism about the care at the Health Center.

Dr. Howard Anapol, director of Student Health Services, said he is deeply concerned about the dissatisfaction expressed by students and would like feedback to help provide the most positive experience possible for those visiting the center.

Although there may be legitimate patient concerns, Anapol said communication may be the key to fixing the current problems.

Health Center patients such as Tracy Lee, a senior, told The Miami Hurricane that the center has always provided students with good service. They have even gone the extra mile of telling her where to go to get reasonably-priced medications.

However, others have had less pleasant experiences. Some students said that the center’s long waits are discouraging.

Meggan Payne, a graduate student, said that she was treated after waiting an hour and being sent to the waiting room multiple times.

Joe Wendt, a sophomore, said the lines were “ridiculously long.”

Anapol explained that waits are the longest at midday and late afternoon on Mondays and Fridays, but that students can make an appointment to minimize waits. The center’s “open access system” can contribute to longer waits because anyone can be seen for any problem on those days.

“Some schools choose to close at lunch time; our decision to stay open adds some to the challenge,” Anapol said.

The wait is usually longest during lunchtime hours because the doctors are rotating while they take their lunch breaks, and not as many staff members are on hand.

Typically, 130 students visit the Health Center every day, and they are received by four doctors, one nurse and one nurse practitioner. Yet the administration does not believe that long lines are due to a shortage of staff.

“We feel that we have the staff that that we need,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely, whose staff decides whether to employ more doctors or nurses. “We are confident in the services that we provide to students.”

Anapol said the majority of patients who go to the Health Center may have minor physical symptoms stemming from psychologically-related issues, such as anxiety or depression. Thus, long lines at the Health Center may also be partially due to the large number of patients who seek psychological help there rather than at the counseling center.

Still, some students don’t think the care is worth the wait.

Amanda Price, a sophomore, sat quietly in the waiting room of the Health Center on Feb. 22 for her third visit of the month.

“I’ve missed so many classes,” Price said as she sat waiting for the nurse to see her because of stomach problems, which she believes are a result of her prolonged congestion due to lack of antibiotics.

“Two weeks ago, I had all the symptoms for a bad cold or flu when I first came here. The nurse prescribed over-the-counter drugs, but refused to prescribe antibiotics,” she said.

Price, who wanted to take antibiotics to recover quickly, so as not to miss classes, was prescribed “five or six over-the-counter drugs,” which she said offered no relief.

Price said she returned to the Health Center in an attempt to get an antibiotic prescription, but was turned down again. Walking around campus, struggling through classes and homework with a fever of 101 degrees, Price wondered why antibiotics had not been administered.

Anapol said that when Health Center doctors are reluctant to prescribe antibiotics, it is because these medications do not always offer a cure to patients’ illnesses.

Upper respiratory infections, such as colds, sore throats and the flu, are usually caused by viruses, which are germs that are not killed by antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It would be lot easier for us to prescribe [antibiotics]and have patients walk away,” Anapol said, “but that’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

Chelsea Kate Isaacs may be contacted at chelsea@miami.edu.

March 20, 2008

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.