The University’s decision to end the round-the-clock care at the Health Center has sparked student complaints across campus and provided a visible issue for the candidates running for FUSA president.

Effective March 14, the day students return from spring break, the University Health Center will cut its hours to Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to 8 p.m.

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Both FUSA Presidential candidates, Eddie Muniz ‘11 and Kyle Duggan ‘11, agreed that handling student reaction to this issue should be a top priority.

“At first, I was shocked because I didn’t really understand why the University administration decided to do that,” said Muniz ‘11. “I think that a health center that is open 24/7 is a good thing about the University and something that a lot of students looked at when touring the campus. I think the hours being cut is definitely a drawback.”

Duggan said, “The student voice is definitely calling out for a return to the original 24/7 policy. The Health Center is definitely a resource that needs to be there 24/7 and students have been very vocal about that.”

On Feb. 11, the University sent out an electronic announcement to the University community announcing the change. Student reaction was swift.

After hearing of this change, Lauren Davidow ’11 said, “The University should be embarrassed by these hours.”

Other students agreed.

“I think it’s a bit ridiculous that they are cutting out night hours since that’s when a lot of issues seem to be and I think now a lot of students aren’t going to be able to get the help they need,” said Christina Dunne ’13.

What Residence Life Had to Say

Many of the student RA’s find the decision unsettling as well.

“I don’t think the University did a good job advertising at all and I think the University should have consulted the greater student body rather than just making the decision and they should put a lot more thought into it and how it will effect kids’ safety,” said Davidow ’11, a sophomore RA.

Keri Horan ’11, a freshman RA, agreed.

“As an RA, I think it’s a very silly idea and there’s very little incentive for students to call 2241 to get their friends help and I think now that it’s going to be a guaranteed hospital transport, no one’s going to do it,” said Horan. “As an RA, I’m really really concerned.”

Karen Donoghue, director of Residence Life, said that as with any new change there will be questions and therefore has scheduled a specific meeting with the RA’s for March 23rd to help answer concerns.

“With this change, I believe all of our students in need will receive better care after hours in the hospital than they would have in the health center because of the access to doctors in the emergency room,” said Donoghue.

“At the end of the day, I hope that all students would help their friends in need, regardless if they were going to the health center or to the hospital. Fear of ‘getting in trouble’ should never cross someone’s mind if there is a health concern.”

Renewing Licenses

Judith Weindling, director of the Student Health Center, said that the University made their decision with students’ best interest in mind.

“The decision was made with the safety and well-being of our students at the forefront,” said Weindling.

According to the announcement, “Fairfield University’s Health Center currently holds an Infirmary License with the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health. This license allows the University to provide overnight accommodations of limited duration to students who are receiving short-term care, treatment and/or observation for non-emergency needs.”

As the University approaches the renewal of its license, as they do every two years,  it “took the opportunity to examine our current 24/7 schedule in relation to emergency care trends of our student population,” according to the announcement.

The University sought to answer the questions of what was the best standard of care available to a student in an emergency care situation and how did the Health Center’s hours of operation factor into this standard.

Dr. Michael Lee, the University medical director, as well as health care professionals both within and outside the University community, were asked to examine best practices and approaches of comparable institutions.

Emergency Care Concerns

The investigation lead the University to the conclusion that in an emergency care situation, the best care available to a student-patient (indeed, for any patient) is in a hospital.

According to the University announcement Lee said that “in a hospital, a student who needs emergency care will have access to equipment and to personnel with diverse skill sets that are not available in a traditional health center such as Fairfield University’s.”

But what if students don’t need emergency care? What if they have a more minor illness that doesn’t require a hospital visit, with ambulance bills and emergency room costs?

“I think it’s ridiculous because maybe people just need standard medical attention and don’t need to go to the hospital,” said Rory O’Connor ’12.

Other students agreed.

“I’ve gotten sick before 8 o’clock and to think I’d have to be sent to the hospital for something simple the health center could take care of is ridiculous,” said Anthony Raymond ’12.

If money is the issue, students’ concerns are heightened.

“If the school’s going to be putting it’s money into something, it should be health,” said Steve Cironella ’11.

While the University has made the decision to end its 24-hour Health Center access as it states in the University announcement as being similar to most college campuses, there are universities often compared to Fairfield that have a different approach.

Boston College, a Jesuit College Fairfield is often compared to, has a 24-hour inpatient unit for inpatient care and for urgent evaluations. Villanova, another comparative school, is also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition to concern for the change itself, students are frustrated with the lack of communication from the University about the decision.

“There are a lot of students who don’t know of the change and are unaware,” said Duggan.

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