Changes to USF Student Health Clinic: More Than Just a New Entrance

As of last June, the student health clinic has moved to a new location within St. Mary’s Medical Center, and with that, has acquired an all new staff of hospital administrators and physicians.

Up until the end of spring semester, USF’s student health clinic was located on the second floor of St. Mary’s Medical Center, at Stanyan St., and was operated primarily by two nurse practitioners.

The USF student health clinic is now located on the 5th floor of St. Mary’s Medical, at 2250 Hayes St. — one block down from the entrance of the previous clinic. It is now operated by two physicians: one male and one female.

After a mutual agreement with the nurse practitioners, the University decided to move its student clinic to a different location with a different staff “in order to better satisfy the needs of students,” said Kamal Harb, director of Health Promotion Services at USF. With an influx of students with extensive health problems, the University lacked a clinic that could provide a wider scope of services.

According to Harb, the new physicians are able to serve more students per day, and they are more comfortable prescribing medications. Without a required 30 minute time slot for each student, the physicians assess most student health concerns within 10–15 minutes. In turn, they are able to help lower the general time spent in the waiting room and increase their number of daily appointments.

While the former student health clinic nurse practitioners were not comfortable prescribing psychiatric medication or oral contraceptives to students due to the risk of side effects as well as religious restrictions within St. Mary’s, the physicians — now under new hospital management and California State law — can provide students with both short-term psychiatric medication and oral contraceptives. “The physicians are okay prescribing psych meds for a temporary time until students see a psychologist for further evaluation,” explained one hospital administrator at the USF student health clinic front desk.

Under the rules of Aetna, the healthcare provider for USF’s student health insurance, physicians are now required, if requested, to give certain forms of contraceptives for female students at student healthcare clinics throughout California. This policy overrides any restrictions laid out in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” to which St. Mary’s adheres.

An addendum to the Aetna plan, issued September 2012, states that “female contraceptives that are generic prescription drugs,” “female contraceptive devices and related services and supplies that are generic,” and “FDA-approved female over-the-counter contraceptive methods that are prescribed by your physician” are covered expenses under all California student healthcare insurance plans.

“To be honest, we needed to have a clinic for students,” Harb said, adding, “USF did not intentionally seek out the clinic because it served birth control — it was a part of a package that included a wider range of health services for the benefit of students.”

So far, Harb and students have reacted positively to the new student health clinic.

“I’ve been very happy with the [new clinic],” Harb said. “The physicians are extremely responsive; [they] offer a greater scope of services and are very quick.”

While many students have had positive feelings towards the new student health services and clinic location, there are others who found the switch shocking.

“It was hard developing a relationship with one of the nurse practitioners and then being expected to switch doctors,” said senior communications major Maude Ballinger.

The change in USF’s health care service follows a change in hospital ownership, after Dignity Health Care Group bought St. Mary’s Medical Center and St. Francis Memorial Hospital earlier this summer, Harb said.

“I’ve heard no complaints about the switch,” he said. Harb invites any students with positive or negative feedback about the new student health clinic to let him know their thoughts.

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