Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Diagnosis X: Crappy Infirmary

I've been to the campus infirmary a couple times over the years, once for the flu and once for pharyngitis. The building's title now is actually "Student Health Services," a euphemism the newly erected sign proudly proclaims. Students prefer the old term because it's what they know.

I personally had great experiences with the infirmary staff and felt the RNs and P.A. did a good job, but others have different stories. This blog isn't about the quality of care or the competency of the infirmary staff. It's about the condition the building itself, the infirmary's hours of service and how both are negatively affecting the health care of Campbell students.

What does an "infirmary" make you think of? For me it conjures images of the medic tent in M*A*S*H-- improvised medicine and inadequate facilities. The new title of "Student Health Services" was an obvious attempt by the university to alter negative perceptions. I think a more appropriate name would be "Medical Instrument Museum."

I pass the infirmary almost every day and can say with absolute certainty that it sticks out as an eye sore. Every other building on campus is new or newly renovated, and is also an example of either Georgian or Neoclassical architecture. The infirmary, on the other hand, is possibly a spawn of the 1960s mod era. I like the Beatles as much as the next person, but the infirmary doesn't give an impression of professionalism or even cleanliness.

The infirmary's appearance is small beans compared to my biggest complaint about it: the hours of service. One of my friends had an asthma attack on a Friday afternoon and had to have a friend drive her to urgent care after heading to the infirmary's locked doors. I'm not saying we need service 24/7, but normal hours would be nice.

If classes run from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., I don't see why a campus health facility shouldn't. The Friday hours (or lack of) and weekend closing are especially ridiculous. Illness and injury don't go on vacation when the infirmary shuts its doors. The alternative to a closed infirmary is to hit up the nearest urgent care and spend money when the infirmary's care would have been free.

Campbell is a suitcase school, meaning most of its students pack up and go home for the weekend. While the majority of students hit the road Friday afternoon, the school shouldn't leave out-of-staters, internationals, and other stationery students in the dust by assuming they won't get sick or hurt over the weekend. Just because the university can't profit or break even by providing health services over the weekend doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. Health in the U.S. is a standard, not an option.

Okay, the hours and look of the infirmary aren't the greatest, but I haven't even discussed the interior of the building. I know I sound like whiny girl who watches too much What Not to Wear, but I think you can agree with me that an establishment's decor, like a person's outfit, demonstrates purpose and ability.

The infirmary would have looked great during the LBJ era. The furniture is old, varnished wood. The lobby is cramped and poorly lit. The exam rooms contain thick, dust-ridden curtains and dated medical cabinets and containers, with a box of rubber gloves and an informative poster here and there. Walking into an exam room is a blast from the past.

Should I be able to get past the aging equipment and be optimistic? Maybe, but I prefer to be in a medical facility that at least looks to be safe and clean. The avocado green Q-tip container might be sterile, but it sure isn't convincing. For a university with such a great pharmacy school, undergrads sure do get thrown under the bus when it comes to health care.

Yeah yeah, everyone knows the infirmary is weird and I'm just repeating what everyone else thinks. Well, I think there's more to it than it just being an old building with insufficient hours. The university has managed to update every major building except the infirmary. It's capping the undergraduate student body at 3,600 (a goal it will reach and sustain in the next few years) and doesn't seem to have a plan for a new healthy facility.

Last year the SGA president cited the school's 25-year plan in saying the area behind the infirmary down to Highway 421 will be paved over and become a giant parking lot...doesn't sound like they're leaving much room for a bigger infirmary. Does anyone know if the infirmary is accredited? If so, the website certainly doesn't boast of it.

I polled my Facebook friends for 13 hours, January 28-29 to get their opinions on the infirmary's service, appearance, and hours. Here are a few reactions:

"Bad, worse, and worst. People don't get sick on the weekends?"

"They are good at training you to use crutches... and it would be nice for them to be open on weekends... at least like sat mornings or afternoons... or crazy concept after 5 on a week day?"

"[The appearance, service, and hours] all suck!"

"Something needs to be done about health care at CU. It might be different if we were in Raleigh and had readily accessible other options that weren't the ER. But we're not." (From a medical school student at ECU)

"I liked being felt up and insulted."

I think the brand new student gym is (awesome, and) one half of a commitment to health. An updated infirmary should be the other half.

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