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University must cure its inconvenient lack of urgent care options for students

Despite being the only healthcare students have access to on campus, the UCLA Arthur Ashe Health and Wellness Center does not provide students with access to 24 hour urgent care. Students are left to rely on services, such as the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Emergency Department, which can be woefully lacking. (Lauren Man/Daily Bruin)

By Lucy Carroll

Feb. 21, 2019 11:06 p.m.

Three weeks into winter quarter, I found myself shivering uncontrollably while sweating through every layer of clothing I was wearing. I looked up at the blackboard and struggled to listen as my teaching assistant discussed Hobbes and Rousseau. My vision went gray and my head pounded. Only two more classes and a presentation to go.

I had a 103-degree fever, and I definitely shouldn’t have been on campus. But what’s a girl to do when her TA docks an entire letter grade for missing one discussion?

I’m not alone. I’ve seen people puke in the mail room, go to class with strep throat or take ungodly amounts of Mucinex to stay afloat academically.

College introduces a whole new germ pool – especially for students in their first year, who have the least experience navigating the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan system. Yet the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center’s hours and the lack of affordable emergency and urgent care leave students stuck between a rock and a hard place – or worse, vomiting in it.

The Ashe Center provides primary care appointments, immunizations and walk-in availability. The center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. The center’s ASAP Clinic is open weekdays, but only until 5 p.m. at the latest.

In other words, if you’re looking to get help from Ashe, you better schedule your medical emergencies within working hours.

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Emergency Department is the only 24/7 facility, and it comes with about a $125 copay. Most other urgent care facilities in the area charge a $25 copay and close around 8 p.m., making them difficult to access after classes. Westwood’s only urgent care center closes at 6:30 p.m.

When students get sick, they’re advised to skip class to avoid further contamination. Missing midterms, finals or even participation-based discussion sections, however, can prove detrimental to their grades. In attempting to succeed academically, students are unable to prioritize their health due to restricted health care hours and exorbitant copays. At nearly 45,000 students, UCLA is the size of a small city, but the Ronald Reagan ER, a building partially funded by taxpayer and student dollars, doesn’t provide any student-specific emergency services.

Mercedes Allende, a first-year mathematics of computation student, had to wait hours for treatment at the hospital after being hit by a car while on a Bird scooter last quarter and splitting her chin open.

“It took five hours for everything to happen, and it was annoying because I had my chin open for maybe two hours,” said Allende. “I could have had internal bleeding, and I realize I wasn’t the highest-risk case at the ER, but I at least needed my chin cleaned out so it wouldn’t get infected.”

It’s not just the university’s services, but also its patient communication. There is no reception desk at the Ashe Center, and the closest replacement is the 24-hour nurse line, though it often takes up to an hour to get a response. In addition, UC SHIP services can only be accessed through the wildly unpublicized StudentHealth app – a process which is discriminatory against both international students, who can’t access the app, and students without smartphones.

Cassandra Shand, a first-year political science student, said she had a difficult time navigating the health care system after breaking her toe earlier this month.

“I hobbled with a bleeding toe all the way to Ashe – which was embarrassing and really painful – during their operational hours, and they said they couldn’t take any more patients because they were at capacity,” Shand said.

From there, she took an Uber to a nearby urgent care facility, where she struggled to navigate her health insurance. Not only did Ashe fail to provide accessible, on-campus medical care, but the urgent care options it suggested were equally difficult to access due to unclear insurance protocols, associated costs and travel time.

These are completely unreasonable norms for the nation’s top public university, which boasts an acclaimed health care facility. If a student becomes seriously ill after hours, the only course of action shouldn’t be to walk or Uber to the hospital, pay the $125 copay and hope you don’t have to wait in line for five hours. It’s ludicrous the university doesn’t already offer some form of 24-hour urgent care on campus.

Offering that kind of care wouldn’t require new buildings, just an increased number of medical staff. Making that kind of investment would provide a much-needed service to young people navigating the world of health care and independent living, some for the first time.

I pay tuition to learn about Hobbes and Rousseau because I want to be here. I pay tuition fees because I want to be healthy while I’m doing it. But you can’t learn political theory, much less take a midterm on it, when you’re too sick to be anywhere but in your bed.

It’s about time UCLA recognized that.

 

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Lucy Carroll | Managing editor
Carroll is the 2020-2021 Managing editor. She was previously the Opinion Editor.
Carroll is the 2020-2021 Managing editor. She was previously the Opinion Editor.
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