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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Student Health Services to be outsourced by fall 2013

Students seeking health care on campus will soon receive their services in a new facility under new management.

By the end of this month, a committee of University representatives will select an independent company to build a new Student Health Center and manage its staff and services, according to a request for proposals document issued April 3.

The University plans to open the new health center by fall 2013, according to the request.

Managing the Counseling Center’s services is an option included in the request but is not required.

May 2 is the last day interested companies can submit proposals, according to the request. The University has accepted proposals since the request was issued.

“I first had a conversation with [University President Mary Ellen Mazey] about the need for a new Student Health Center when she came into the position in August,” said Jill Carr, senior associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students. “When she started as president, it was clearly one of the first things she wanted to discuss with me.”

The current Student Health Center opened in 1967 and is not physically up to par, said Richard Sipp, director of the Center for Student Health. The building has not been renovated since 1999.

“It’s very small, and it’s not well-designed to assure privacy or efficiency,” he said. “Many of the rooms are well below current standards. In all ways the physical facility is inadequate for the current needs of students.”

The University and the independent company it selects will collaborate to determine the new health center’s location, staff, hours and services, Carr said.

“We’re interested in implementing a model President Mazey is familiar with from Auburn University,” she said. “We made a trip down there to see how they operated and we’re continuing discussions with her about moving in that direction. It works very well there.”

All current employees at the Student Health Center will have the opportunity to work at the new facility, said Rebecca Ferguson, chief human resources officer.

“There will be a transition plan for any current employees similar to the process we went through with Chartwells when Dining Services was outsourced in 2009,” she said. “I care deeply about what happens to this group of employees. There will be a continuum of opportunities for them and we will try to make it as seamless as possible.”

Barbara Hoffman, who has served as the Student Health Center’s director for 26 years, said she has met with her staff frequently throughout the year to discuss the potential changes.

To Hoffman, her greatest concerns are ensuring her staff members maintain their jobs and University students are provided with the unique resources they need.

“College health is so different from primary care and often students have never had exposure to health care on their own prior to coming to us,” she said. “We just want to make sure the focus stays on students. With the Chartwells outsourcing, a college dining service moved in … this is a little different because it won’t be another college health service coming in.”

For this reason, some members of the campus community are unsure if outsourced health care can best serve college students’ needs.

Instructor Cynthia Mahaffey, a past chair of the Faculty Senate’s Health Services Advisory Committee, said a public discussion must take place to better inform the University community and to allow its members to voice their concerns.

“The loss of the center as a University-run institution with the needs of the students at heart will result in students going without proper medical care,” she said. “This is not being conducted in a public way … This decision was purely financial, and I don’t think students’ best interests are being considered.”

Carr and Sipp emphasized that students were the primary focus in the decision-making process, as outsourcing Student Health Services is the most cost-effective way to provide them with quality, up-to-date health care.

Funding for the Student Health Center is currently allocated from the general fees students pay each semester, Carr said. If the University was to build its own health center, it would be necessary to increase those fees.

“We don’t have the dollars to build a new one and this allows those general fee dollars students are currently paying to be reallocated to other areas,” she said. “The most important priority right now is meeting students’ needs.”

Alex Solis, Undergraduate Student Government president, expressed similar feelings.

“I plan to work closely with other senators and the Division of Student Affairs to make sure the student voice is heard,” he said in an email May 1. “I want to go in the direction of opening a direct line of communication between students and USG … We will definitely have the ability to provide input about what company we feel is best to serve students.”

Carr attended an executive meeting this past week to talk to USG representatives about the project and has been “nothing but helpful in keeping us in the loop,” Solis said in the email.

“I know that when they know the specific answers to these topics, I will be informed as well,” he said in the email. “I’m very confident that BGSU administrators will be in communication with [Vice President David Neely] and myself. The working relationship is there.”

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