It’s 9 a.m., and the professor begins class promptly. Papers ruffle, and the professor’s voice is heard amidst a chorus of coughs, sneezes and sniffles. It’s flu season, and for a campus as large as UCLA, that means sick students – and a lot of them.
The good news is the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center, conveniently located at the heart of campus, is ready to serve students. The bad news: It can only serve so many students per day.
The Ashe Center is a popular spot fall quarter, when in addition to flu season, students need to complete immunizations and other physical clearances for certain clubs and commitments. In order to have better service and a reduction in waiting time, the Ashe Center needs to work to extend its business hours.
Fortunately, the recently established ASAP Clinic at Ashe is helping alleviate the need to have an appointment in order to see medical personnel. Its purpose, as stated on its webpage, is to treat students who have an illness or injury and need same-day attention, which is a necessary addition as such an urgent care service on campus did not exist before. When students needed immediate attention, many of them had to turn to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s emergency department, where the wait is undetermined and can be up to a couple of hours.
Although this service changes the experience of students who need immediate help, there are still some difficulties to overcome. Currently, ASAP seems to be a substitute for anyone who cannot obtain an appointment in a timely manner. Although the opening of the ASAP Clinic relieves some of the demand for booked appointments, it is not a sustainable solution.
Given the congestion plaguing Ashe Center appointments, it’s clear why students would resort to the ASAP Clinic. It was built to accommodate students who need urgent care, like those with a broken ankle or those who were unable to make an appointment but still need same-day medical care. According to data from Rebecca Kendall, the media relations contact for student health, currently about 22 percent of the total patients seen on average per day are visiting the ASAP Clinic. That means that either 22 percent of all students coming in for medical care either needed urgent care or couldn’t get an appointment. Because the ASAP Clinic isn’t limited, students potentially could continuously come to the ASAP Clinic instead of making an appointment. If so, the ASAP Clinic would become overcrowded and inefficient in itself mostly because the number of patients unable to find appointments would be transferred to the ASAP Clinic.
The ASAP Clinic has other cons. Some services, such as travel immunizations, advice and routine physicals, are still only offered through appointments. The website is specific in mentioning that the ASAP Clinic was not designed for routine care, yet if students are having difficulty finding timely appointments, their only option for any care might be the ASAP Clinic. While appointments are usually 15 minutes long because the ASAP Clinic does not serve patients first come, first serve, but rather prioritizes based on the severity of the case, there is an unknown wait time, posing a difficult choice for students with busy schedules.
Administration should work to streamline its appointment booking to fully address and better serve students.
As of right now, making an appointment is not easy. The message “No appointments are available for the specified range” greets many students as they scroll through the calendar. When they finally find choices, the appointment dates are a month away. The Ashe Center promotes its same-day appointments system, but these are are also limited. Students are only allowed to make an appointment with their primary care provider, minimizing their available slots to approximately six appointments since each primary care provider only has up to six same-day appointments available given that no other student has already taken one of those six.
Instead of shifting the overflow of students not being able to obtain an appointment to another area of the Ashe Center, UCLA should consider expanding its medical services by extending its service times to include Saturdays, Sundays and evenings. UCLA has many facilities to serve students, including seven dining halls or boutiques on the hill and two gyms, but it only has one student health center. The UCLA administration should prioritize funding for health services, so that Ashe can better deal with the appointment demands at a faster pace. Faster appointment processing would keep students from unnecessarily depending on the ASAP service but still keep them attended to. After all, without good health, it is difficult for any student to perform well whether that be academically, emotionally or socially.
The clinic’s immediate response might be to have a stricter policy when accepting patients in order to prevent students from misusing or overusing the ASAP Clinic, but that would still not get rid of the demand for appointments. Instead, it’ll make it worse. Congestion and availability of appointments were not fixed through the addition of ASAP Clinic and still needs to be addressed with extended hours and staff.
Students should be able to get an appointment they need, before flu season ends.