Campus clinics face funding barriers

Students disadvantaged from a health-care perspective, Queen’s medical director says

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Students are unfairly tasked with funding on-campus health care, says Undergraduate Student Trustee Lauren Long.

A policy paper regarding student health was approved at last weekend’s Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s (OUSA) spring General Assembly.

The research-based policy, presented to the student lobbying group, covers a broad variety of health-related topics, including funding issues for on-campus clinics, like Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS).

One of the concerns that the policy highlights is student fees. “There is the concern that students are taking on the responsibility of funding … and there’s not enough government funding,” Long, ArtSci ’13, said.

According to Statistics Canada, Ontario post-secondary students usually pay a health services fee ranging from $20 to $196, depending on the institution.

Undergraduates currently pay $54.91 to health services at Queen’s. “One of the biggest problems right now is ... no one’s really taking ownership of these campus clinics because they’re kind of at the intersection of education and health,” Long said.

“The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MCTU) say that this is the Ministry of Health’s problem to deal with, whereas the Ministry of Health says that these clinics are on campus, therefore the MCTU should deal with it.”

Since this policy paper will become an official lobbying stance of OUSA, the document carries a great deal of political influence, Long said.

“Now that we have a document that’s been approved by all these institutions, it has more weight,” Long said. “The recommendations and concerns [of the paper] will be carried into conversations with different politicians.”

Long said this is the first paper on student health that OUSA has published.

“[It’s] a big step because it has been a hot topic over the last couple of years,” Long said.

Besides outlining major concerns, the paper includes recommendations to government and institutions.

One of the recommendations is to change the current funding model of post-secondary health services.

Unlike community clinics, university health clinics don’t receive funding based on how many patients a physician sees. “Basically the recommendation is to change the fee-per-service model for campus physicians and to have actual community health centres and family health teams on campus,” Long said.

Dr. Suzanne Billing, medical director of HCDS, said family health teams receive funding for having nurse practitioners, psychologists, diabetic teachers and foot care.

“They have all kinds of extra funding to cover services to patients like physiotherapy,” she said. “They get money for all different things, none of which we get.”

Billing sees it as a problem of fairness and equity that needs to be addressed by the government.

“I’ve always seen it as students are somewhat disadvantaged from a health-care perspective,” she said. “Young people are the future of our province, our country, our planet. Not giving them the same kind of access to care … is not a reasonable approach.”

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