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University News

Health office offers more doctor hours

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010

University Health Services has closed its overnight inpatient services and extended its hours of full-service operation in order to provide more efficient service and save money.

According to Edward Wheeler, director of Health Services, nurse-only hours have been cut down, but there are more hours when doctors give X-rays, fill prescriptions and see patients. Health Services — including the X-ray unit and pharmacy — is now open for full care Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

While Health Services is closed, students who call the office will be routed to a nursing service that can provide advice. Brown’s Emergency Medical Services will continue to be available at all times.

Two years ago, full-care opportunities were limited from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, but nursing appointments were available around the clock.

Wheeler called the change a “better use of resources.” Health Services is now able to see about 100 additional patients each week with the extended appointment hours, with an average of between 80 and 100 patients total seen each day.

Graduate and medical students had trouble getting in during the previous hours and will benefit from the change, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services.

Students can now get all of their needs — medical examinations, X-rays, lab work and prescriptions — taken care of in one visit, Wheeler said. “Before, we’d see patients at six, and we couldn’t do an X-ray. We’d have to have them come back the next day. Now we don’t have to do that,” he said. “Now when we’re open, we’re open for everything.”

Wheeler said another benefit is that fewer students end up in the hospital. “Nurses were sending more patients to the hospital between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (on weekdays) and on weekends, but now we’re able to do a better job of evaluating them and taking care of them while they’re here,” Wheeler said.

The Organizational Review Committee, a group that worked to find opportunities for budget reduction across campus last spring, recommended replacing inpatient services with other services such as expanded evening and weekend hours and an overnight nursing triage service. Wheeler explained that the inpatient unit was not used very often and was expensive to maintain. Some of Brown’s peer institutions, including Cornell, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, have also eliminated their infirmaries. But Health Services will still have four beds available for day use, Wheeler said.

“We decided it was a good decision at this moment to close it,” Klawunn said. She declined to specify the amount the University will save by making this change, but said it was “significant.”

The new hours were decided by administrative staff at Health Services and Klawunn, with the help of a consultant, Wheeler said.

“As we were considering closing the inpatient unit, we were trying to figure out what would also be helpful,” Klawunn said.

Wheeler said many students had sought help between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and before 4 p.m. on the weekends but could not receive the services they needed. As a result, he said, Health Services adjusted their hours to fit the needs of those students.

Klawunn emphasized her confidence in the changes. “There was much discussion, and we looked at it very carefully. We’re making a decision that we think is the right decision,” she said.

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