The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Putting our well-being first

Healthcare must care for the whole person

Recent staffing changes in the St. Joe’s Student Health Center have resulted in longer wait times and, more troubling, an absence of services previously provided, notably problem-focused gynecological services.

Problem-focused exams address a patient’s specific medical concerns, as opposed to routine care that is recommended for all patients.

The Student Health Center at St. Joe’s currently staffs two registered nurses and a medical doctor, according to its website, for a traditional undergraduate student population of 4,688. The previous director, who had experience in the field of women’s health, left the university in June.

A different former staff member, who was the Health Center’s primary provider of gynecological services, also is no longer at St. Joe’s although the university will not verify that she, or her position, existed.

Neither position has been filled, and the Health Center is currently lacking a provider of gynecological care. As a result, St. Joe’s students have begun to campaign in the interest of advocating for the university to provide a full-time gynecologist.

A petition created by the University Student Senate (USS) on Oct. 16 calls for St. Joe’s to hire a full-time OB/GYN practitioner beginning in the spring 2019 semester. The petition had reached over 750 signatures as of Oct. 22.

The petition invoked the Health Center’s stated mission to “[identify] and [address] health situations which impede student learning.”

The Hawk reached out to 13 of the 27 American Jesuit universities to clarify their staffing practices regarding women’s health providers and found that St. Joe’s is lacking in comparison.

St. Louis University currently staffs an OB/GYN and a nurse practitioner with gynecological experience. Santa Clara University employs a full-time medical doctor with women’s health experience. The health centers at both universities offer routine as well as problem-focused gynecological care.

Hiring a full-time OB/GYN at St. Joe’s would convey to female students on campus, many of whom utilize the Health Center for their yearly gynecological check-ups, that the university is committed to protecting and promoting their health.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants with gynecological experience would also provide much-needed assistance to meet student demand for those services.

Beyond that, there is a lack of transparency regarding which sexual health services the Health Center currently provides. Its website currently lists administration of hormone therapy for transgender students, pregnancy testing, STI and HIV testing and problem-focused gynecological care as services offered.

However, an Oct. 10 article in The Hawk entitled “Female healthcare limited on campus” revealed that the university currently refers students who need problem-focused gynecological care to outside medical providers. 

Problem-focused gynecological examinations, when they were offered at the St. Joe’s Health Center, were free of charge. The university’s directive to students to simply take advantage of all of the available health care options in Philadelphia ignores the reality of health care costs that students incur when they are forced to seek care off campus.

Those who are insured through the St. Joe’s student health insurance provider, United Healthcare, could pay anywhere from $64 to $111 for a visit to an in-network gynecological provider, in addition to any transportation costs they may incur.

In this case, it is female students who are being asked to shoulder this financial burden.

If the administration is set on overhauling campus infrastructure in accordance with its 10-year master plan, it ought to divert resources and attention to expanding the understaffed Health Center, which is essential to promoting student well-being. Part of that expansion must include the staffing of a full-time gynecological service provider.

Our student population is increasing in both number and gender diversity; over 54 percent of St. Joe’s undergraduate students are women. It’s time “cura personalis” became a reality for everyone.

—The Hawk Staff

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