Health Services moves underground
After 30 years in Umrath Hall, Student Health and Counseling Services moved to the basement of Forsyth House on the South 40 last month. Many students say they were unaware of this change, however, which has created confusion in the aftermath of the move.
Among their grievances, students say they do not know Health Services moved, that the signs outside the old facilities are not well-displayed, and that there is no sign outside the new facility to distinguish it.
“I think a lot of people knew it would be here [on the South 40], but a lot of people don’t know it opened,” said senior Amber Phillips. “There needs to be a sign or something like that. It just looks like the basement to a dorm.”
Dr. Alan Glass, director of Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS), explained there are administrative barriers to putting up temporary signs.
“[The lack of a sign out front] is related to the fact that our permanent signage hasn’t come in yet, and there are rules against putting up temporary signage,” he said.
Additionally, Glass explained that there were several things SHCS did to announce the move. All people who call SHCS are notified of the change, an advertisement was placed in Student Life, there was an article in the Record and an e-mail was sent to students.
“We were concerned that.if there was a population we were missing, it would be graduate and professional students, so an e-mail went out through the dean’s office to those students. We were confident that most of those living in ResLife housing were aware [of the change], and that most of the RAs knew that we moved,” said Glass.
At 8,462 square feet, SHCS’ new space is over 1,600 square feet larger than its former space.
“There is more square footage here, [and] it’s also laid out in a much more efficient way,” said Glass. “[Our old facility] was on three levels and it was kind of chopped up…This is a much better layout.”
According to Glass, the larger and better organized space, in which all rooms are set up along a long hallway, has led to greater efficiency in patient care at SHCS. It has enabled SHCS to have 12 exam rooms in its new area as opposed to eight in the former facility.
“We’ve retained the same number of staff, but the deal is that the place is set up so much more efficiently that the same number of staff can actually…see a higher number of students,” said Glass. “Because we have more rooms to put people in, then the clinical staff can be more efficient going from room to room.”
Students agree that the new space is much nicer than the old one in Umrath.
“It’s a lot cleaner looking; the old one looked kind of cruddy. It feels so much more sterile,” said Phillips. “I guess the facilities make it easier for the care to be better because it’s not as crowded.there’s a lot of space, it’s not depressing to walk in, you don’t have to find your way through the maze.”
With respect to the new location, however, student opinions are mixed. Those who live on the South 40 are happy that SHCS is closer.
“I live on the South 40 and it’s much easier to walk here now,” said sophomore Erin Schwartz. “It’s also a lot nicer; it’s not as dark and dingy and old, but I like the layout, I like it a lot.”
For students who do not live on the South 40, the move poses more of an inconvenience.
“For me personally [the former location] would be more convenient since I live off campus,” said senior Dan Covich. “People who live on the South 40 often don’t have transportation, whereas people who live off-campus generally do.The biggest inconvenience would probably be for those on the north side of campus since they have blue [parking] passes and so they would have to walk all the way over to the 40.”
Along with their new facility, SHCS has also introduced several new services including travel medicine in which they offer consultations related to immunizations, standard minor surgical procedures such as sewing cuts, wireless Internet access in the waiting room and the introduction of Health Promotion Services, the educational component of SHCS, under the same roof.
Glass explained that SHCS can be divided into three parts: medicine services, which treats all physical ailments; mental health services; and Health Promotion Services. Previously, medicine services and mental health services shared the space in Umrath, while Health Promotion Services was located in the Women’s Building.
“For the first time in the history of Wash. U., all three of those critical pieces of Health Services are underneath one roof and it lets us work together a lot better,” said Glass.
One of the things Glass worried about in the planning of the new facility was parking. Currently, there are 16 metered parking spaces reserved for SHCS, and the University shuttle now stops in front of the new building.
“I was very concerned about [parking] because all the students don’t live near the health service,” said Glass. “There would be students who would need to drive here, so a concern from the beginning has been the availability of parking.”
SHCS’s former space, Umrath Hall, will house those who are currently located in Prince Hall, which will be demolished this May.
“Prince is coming down, and we’re going to use Umrath to relocate people who are going to lose their homes when Prince comes down,” said Thomas Simmons, director of facilities. “What will happen with Umrath will be a mix of student activities groups and space for Arts & Sciences people, most of whom are displaced from Prince.”
Simmons noted that he is unsure of whether these groups will eventually move to the new University Center.
“We’re just trying to get [the groups who are in Prince] away from the wrecking ball,” he said.
SHCS serves all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as any spouses or domestic partners of students who enroll in the University health plan. Currently, SHCS does not provide services to faculty or staff.
Glass is optimistic about the future of the new SHCS.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work out of a beautiful state-of-the-art facility. I really do feel like we’ve always practiced really good medicine, but I think that we’re going to be able to do an even better job of that in this new facility,” he said.
-With additional reporting by Kristin McGrath
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