Editorial: Health Services must expand hours to meet student demand

by Carys Kong

Health Service is an essential resource for our campus, providing care for students in their most vulnerable moments, whether it be a sudden flu infliction before midterms, a trip to pick up Plan B or a busted knee from walking down the Memorial Steps with too much vigor. Health Service doesn’t just aid in the treatment of the sick and injured, but also helps students with sexual health and provides administrative support; the staff provides an invaluable service during the rocky transition from teenage life to adulthood. Michelle Bowdler, executive director of health and wellness services, told the Daily that the clinic tries its best to meet student demand by evaluating at what times students most frequently visit Health Service.

“We try to be really nimble, and we try to pay good attention to heavy volume periods and the kind of staffing we need and to be as mindful as we can,” Bowdler said.

We acknowledge this positive intention; however, Health Service’s current hours fail to respond to student demand, for it is only open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Not only does the current system close the door on students with busy schedules and leave the student body to fend for itself on weekends, but it also doesn’t allow room for adjustment during the hours it is open. To amend these issues and appropriately respond to student demand, Health Service must expand hours during both weekdays and weekends. 

Health Service’s weekday hours prove insufficient, for they largely coincide with classes, work and extracurricular demands, preventing students from accessing treatment without flaking on their commitments. Students should not have to choose between health and fully engaging with a meaningful college experience including work, courses and clubs. Additionally, if a student has a full day and cannot attend Health Service to get an exemption note, they will have to suffer through another day of classes instead of resting, which can extend illness and further harm their ability to maintain a normal school and social schedule. Even if some students can find the time within their busy schedules, expanding hours would give them some much-needed breathing room. In order to address these issues and prioritize balance, health and sanity within students’ schedules, Health Service must remain open for at least an extra hour each weekday. 

Health Service fails to respond to student demand during the weekends as well; it is only open for a limited time on Saturday and is closed on Sundays. Due to this lack of weekend accessibility, students sick during the weekend must either make a taxing off-campus trip to urgent care or feel sick without any hope of treatment until the week begins. Junior Anjali Goyal unfortunately experienced this firsthand. After coming down with a stomach illness during a weekend last year, she was unable to visit Health Service for more than a day. She explained that the lack of immediate treatment not only failed to ease her discomfort, but also put others at risk. 

“If [Health Service] wants to make the campus healthier, then having more hours available for students who are sick prevents contagion,” Goyal said. 

Those who fall sick during the weekend also cannot easily get excused from class the following Monday, which can lead to longer illness and a poorer performance in classes. Health Service would fully address these issues of spreading illness and lack of weekend treatment by implementing a relatively simple solution: opening for a few hours on Sundays, perhaps from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Health Service’s limited schedule also affects wait-times and business, further highlighting the necessity of expanding hours. Multiple students reported that Health Service is often extremely crowded, failing to accommodate the medical needs of an entire campus. First-year Rachel Orr discussed her difficulty with making an appointment for her pink eye due to how busy Health Service was.

“I asked them if they had any time available, and they said they wouldn’t have any availability for two-and-a-half weeks. And by that point it wouldn’t have even been of any use,” Orr said. 

First-year Annie Brennan faced a similar situation when she came to Health Service with a 103-degree fever, explaining that she had been turned away during the Flu Shot Clinic. Expanding both weekday and weekend hours would address the busyness of Health Service by allowing students to visit the clinic at more times and therefore reducing the volume of demand during its current hours.

By extending hours, Health Service ensures that the whole community can access medical care with proper timeliness and while accommodating their schedules. Health should never be sacrificed, and Tufts Health Service is no exception. This extension in hours is vital to support the student body in the most fundamental way possible.