In many communities, 24 hour urgent care has become an important presence due to its convenience and affordability in treating for non-life-threatening conditions. This is especially true in areas where local doctors offices and hospitals have been forced to close or reduce their services due to budgetary concerns and other problems. Now, universities across the United States are turning to urgent medical care as well to cut costs without compromising student health. Harvard University is one.
In wake of the University Health Services’ decision to close Stillman Infirmary, Harvard has announced that the college will maintain a 24 hour urgent care clinic to help meet students’ needs. According to the Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper, the urgent care facility will offer a variety of in-person services, including triage, urgent medical care, and on-site alcohol assessments at all hours, but especially at night. According to the UHS, this option was chosen to help provide as many necessary health services as possible while meeting government regulations and cutting costs; Harvard, like many other educational institutions, sustains its health services through student fees and health insurance payments.
Unfortunately, the transition from infirmary to 24 hour urgent care has not been without controversy. While UHS staff members have claimed that Stillman does not meet government regulations for clinical space, many students seem concerned about the loss of some of the infirmary’s main services, including overnight respite beds. As a result, the organization has had to answer a variety of questions about the effect on student life, including the possible costs of ambulance rides for students the urgent care center is unable to help. In response, the UHS has stated that they are examining a number of programs and options, including a transportation service for students who may not need ambulatory care.
Stillman’s closure will likely have a serious impact on student life at Harvard, even with 24 hour urgent care services in place. However, the change will likely have a number of benefits as well: the UHS says that the transition will free up valuable space for increased mental health services and same-day appointments. In the end, it seems that the insular world of Harvard is merely responding to changes in the medical industry as a whole, switching to urgent medical care like so many communities before them. This is a great source for more.