Clinic no-show fees leave struggling students unsupported

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Seeking medical or psychiatric help as a student can be an intimidating task. 
 
Campus healthcare resources don’t make that any easier by imposing steep no-show fees on vulnerable students sometimes forced to cancel appointments last-minute.
 
Last week, The Eyeopener reported that the Ryerson Medical Centre has raised its no-show fees drastically, with some going up to $150. But increasing the financial penalty for missed appointments doesn’t stop students from cancelling; it discourages low-income and at-risk students from reaching out in the first place.
 
Ryerson isn’t alone: Queen’s Student Wellness Services operates on a similar policy. Our clinic asks that students cancel at least 24 hours before their scheduled appointment times. If not, no-show fees range from $30 for a missed 10-minute physician appointment to $180 for longer psychiatry appointments.
 
These fees are significant, especially for students who often face financial constraints. If a student realizes they need to skip a same-day appointment, the cost could stick around as long as their medical concern does.
 
Wellness Services’ justification for the exorbitant fees is based on the “considerable delay in the provision of care” for the student in question, as well as the “considerable expense” to the clinic and its healthcare providers.
 
But post-secondary schools’ clinics shouldn’t rely on late fees as a significant part of their funding. Universities need to compensate for losses from missed appointments in ways that don’t include taking money from afflicted students’ pockets.
 
Most students understand the gravity of a missed appointment. A costly fee isn’t a deterrent—it’s prohibitive. It could discourage students from ever seeking help again.
 
Many school clinics leave students waiting for weeks before appointments are available. When students book that early, conflicts are bound to occasionally arise before the visit itself. Student life is demanding and complicated. Finding the balance between various practical commitments and unexpected health challenges can necessitate last-minute schedule changes.
 
Those reaching out for psychiatry appointments might find the day of their appointment coinciding with a difficult time for their mental health, which could prevent them from attending. These students shouldn’t be punished with a $180 fee for reaching out for help, even if they can’t follow through on their first try. 
 
Given the significant wait times for appointments at university health services, those who miss appointments are likely as frustrated as the clinic—if not more so. If a student is forced to cancel on short notice, chances are it’s for reasons outside their control.
 
Punitive no-show fees for missed appointments deter students from seeking help from on-campus healthcare services. 
 
Queen’s, and all post-secondary institutions, should do away with charging students for last-minute cancellations. They should focus on making their services more accessible and accommodating instead.
 
 

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