As Brittany Corliss ‘13, a nursing student at Fairfield University, tried to study for her anatomy exam, she had trouble concentrating. As she attempted to memorize the parts of the body, she was unable to focus due to a stinging pain in her right ear.

She wasn’t sure how worried she should be by the pain and slight hearing loss that she was experiencing. Corliss wanted a professional’s opinion, someone to tell her that her eardrum wasn’t about to burst.

However, unwilling to go to the Emergency Room, and with no other resource to turn to on campus, Corliss had to finish studying and go to bed, worried.

“My ear was hurting, and there was clearly something wrong with it, but not so severe that I needed to go to the Emergency Room,” she said.

All that she needed was a professional opinion but she knew that, “I couldn’t make a 4-hour trip to the ER, because obviously I’m not going to get seen right away,” said Corliss.

Other students at Fairfield have experienced a similar dilemma, since the campus Health Center closed its infirmary doors last year on March 14.

According to Judith Weindling, Director of the Health Center, the two aspects that were at the forefront when the University made the decision to cut hours were the safety of the students, and the ability to allocate resources where the most students could take advantage of them.

Students who find themselves plagued with common ailments in the night have not been the only ones impacted by the shorter hours.

According to one sophomore student, who was transported to the Emergency Room, but requested to remain unidentified, his own trip to the hospital was unnecessary.

“[I] could have easily gone to the Health Center, but since the Health Center wasn’t open, they felt like it was necessary to bring [me] to the hospital. It could have easily been solved for everybody if they could have just brought [me] to the Health Center, because they would have realized that [I] really wasn’t as bad as they thought,” he said.

ER Care as Safety Precaution

Although some students may feel that a trip to the hospital is an unnecessary inconvenience. Dr. Mark Reed, Vice President of Student Affairs, does not make the jump from inconvenience to negative consequence.

Although Reed does realize that there are some cases where students go to the hospital and they are not in danger anymore, he also recognizes the chance that they may really be in trouble.

“All it takes is one case,” said Reed, “and I’ll take the inconvenience to prevent the one.” “I sleep better at night knowing that somebody who has had too much to drink is not sitting in our Health Center, but if necessary, sitting in a hospital, in an Emergency Room,” he said.

Sophia Anteneh ‘13, a Resident Assistant echoed that sentiment saying, “You never know what’s gonna happen, because half of the time kids go to the hospital and they send them right back, and half the time they go to the hospital and they spend the night.”

Administrative vs. Student Reaction

Although many students may disagree with the decision to shorten the Health Center hours, many faculty and administrators on campus feel that the change has been positive for the students and community as a whole. Not only has the change been positive, but faculty members also say that the change has not been too dramatic.

According to Weindling, the University was averaging 5-6 hospital transports on the weekends when the Health Center was open 24/7, and they’re really not averaging that many more now.

She added that although the Health Center has lost the ability to have students stay overnight, it is a bit of a misconception that students could ever come in and get antibiotics or a prescription in the nighttime to begin with.

Some Fairfield students look at the Health Center’s decreased hours from a moral perspective. “Knowing that the health center was so close, but was unable to help my friend, and knowing that my friend was in a really serious condition, and had to drive all the way to St. Vincent’s Hospital,” said Nargis Alizada’12, “Knowing that that could cause their death I think the situation really seems obscure.”

For some, the fact that the Health Center is now closed at night also raises the concern that students may be unwilling to call for needed help in emergency situations.

According to Anteneh, students might be more likely to get others the help they need if the Health Center was still open 24/7. “It’s a bigger deal to send someone to the hospital. They have to pay for an ambulance ride, their parents get a call. Nobody wants to deal with that, people are afraid of that,” she said.

While some students may try to avoid repercussions, fear of getting in trouble has not been an important factor for all students.” This year, since the changes have been implemented, residents [have] come to tell me that their friends were sick, and then transported, because they realized that their friend’s medical well-being is more important than whether or not they get in trouble,” said Kelsey Greelish ‘12, a Resident Assistant.

Financial Speculation

Not only have the hour cuts brought into question what student response might be in emergency situations, but they have also raised some student speculation that the change was the University’s attempt to save money. However, administrators say that the hour cuts had nothing to do with financial reasons.

According to Weindling, most students actually benefit more since the hours have been cut. When the Health Center was open 24/7, very few students actually took advantage of its resources every night. That wasn’t fair due to the fact that everybody paid the same tuition, but not everybody benefitted  from the late health care hours that they were paying for.

Although administrators say the hour cuts had nothing to do with finances, some students are still skeptical. “It always has to do with money,” said Jenna Goldbach‘11. “It’s kind of like an allocation of resources,” she said. “I don’t really know if health is one of those things that you should compromise.”

Although some students may still question the university’s decision to cut the hours, the administration remains optimistic. “I think that every change takes time to get used to,” Weindling said.

Weindling believes that as students become more adjusted to the situation and it becomes, “our routine, and it’s not going to be quite as big of an issue for students.”

How Do We Compare to Other Schools?

There has been much controversy and disagreement about the shortened Health Center hours here at Fairfield, which changed last March from 24/7 service to hours from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. during the week, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on the weekend. However, other Jesuit University websites show that they have similar Health Center hours. Some are not even as long or as flexible as Fairfield University’s.

For example, Loyola University Maryland’s health center is only open Monday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Marquette University’s health center is only open Monday -Thursday, from 8:30-5:00, and Fridays until 4:00 p.m.

However, while Fairfield may provide better health services on campus in terms of the days and hours the Health Center is open, this does not take into account how the prices of these other Jesuit Universities stack up to the price to attend Fairfield.

The Price We Pay…

In comparison to Fairfield University’s $38,450 tuition, students at Loyola University Maryland only pay $18,975, and at Marquette, only $15,020.

So yes, unlike many other Jesuit universities in the country, Fairfield’s Health Center is open on the weekends for a certain amount of time, and may be open for about three hours longer, comparatively, each day during the week.

However, when compared to some of the other Jesuit universities, Fairfield students are also often paying over $20,000 more in tuition alone to attend this university. Therefore, many students feel that it is unacceptable that we don’t have around the clock access to health care on campus.

Despite this fact, university officials say that the decision to shorten the hours really had nothing to do with financial reasons. Reed pointed out that the university has been through some difficult financial challenges in the past few years, citing cuts in both staffing and programming.

“If it was a financial decision and we were looking for a reason to make the decision based on finances … we could have done that a long time ago,” he said.

Although the cut in hours may have no financial impact on the university, they definitely have an impact on students who get ambulatory transportation to the Emergency Room.

Unlike care from the Health Center, which Weindling confirms is given at no actual charge to the students who come in to be seen, ambulatory transport and ER care can get pricey.

According to Veronica Figueroa, a financial counselor in the Admitting Department of Bridgeport Hospital, ambulances charge patients by the mile, and patients have come in with bills of over $700 for the ambulance ride alone.

Not only that, but patients get an itemized bill for every different service while in the hospital, which could include toxicology screenings, blood tests and room charges.

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