The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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SMU Health Center considering extended weekend hours

The President’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention Report released recently included a recommendation for a revision of the SMU Memorial Health Center’s current schedule.

Health and Medical Services Recommendation H1 proposes extended hours for the health center, after-hours nursing staff and an on-call physician, as well as a medical hotline to answer “students’ immediate medical questions and facilitate medical care” as stated in the proposal.

Newly elected student body president Rob Hayden campaigned with the proposal to keep the health center open for 24 hours from Thursday night until Saturday morning, a time period when many alcohol-induced incidents occur.

“People would be more inclined to call the health center if they knew it was open,” he said. This is an option the health center is considering.

Patrick Hite, the executive director of health services at the Health Center, is currently assessing the task force recommendation and says that a preliminary plan has been laid out.

“We would have a nurse here and a physician on call,” he said. But he also adds that one nurse cannot be at the health center alone all night, and would therefore be accompanied by an SMU police officer.

The students who are being targeted by this task force recommendation, however, have voiced their “reluctance to call 911 for fear of getting in trouble or getting the SMU police involved,” which is listed as a reason for the proposal. So although a 24-hour schedule for the Memorial Health Center would be a convenient option, is it really something students involved in alcohol-related incidents would use if an SMU police officer were there?

SMU freshman Joanne Tam, a resident of Peyton Hall, confirms this fear among students with an experience she had one night. Her friend drank too much and was clearly in need of medical attention. “No one wanted to get an alcohol violation,” says Tam, so she and her friends felt their options of seeking help were limited.

They didn’t want to go to their RA or call an ambulance because they thought everyone would get in trouble, even if some of the people she was with hadn’t been drinking. Finally they decided to drive to a hospital, which turned into a 20-minute ride, she says.

SMU sophomore Lisa Rodriguez, an RA for Virginia-Snider, says “it’s a short walk” to the Health Center, and it would be much more convenient if it could stay open after hours. Peyton Hall, Virginia-Snider, Mary Hay and Shuttles all share the same quad with the Health Center, which houses many underclassmen. Rodriguez has residents on her hall who come to seek advice for a friend who has consumed too much alcohol.

“It’s silly to think you would risk someone’s life not to get in trouble,” Rodriguez says.

What many people don’t realize is that emergency treatment at the Health Center is limited.

“We don’t have the equipment here,” Hite said. If there were an emergency, the nurse at the Health Center would call 911, which is the current protocol for students seeking help after hours. Hite says hospitals can provide much more advanced care and have the equipment to treat victims of substance abuse.

For more subtle cases, people seeking medical advice could benefit from a medical hotline, as proposed by the task force. Hite is looking into this system and sees it as a good idea. People could call an on-campus phone line and would then be directed to someone at the other end who would have a listing of symptoms and courses of action to take for certain medical conditions. This could save people a potential hospital trip.

SMU Student Senate is currently evaluating many of the Task Force recommendations, and the subcommittees assigned to each proposal are beginning to draft legislation voicing the student opinion on these recommendations.

President R. Gerald Turner will hold a meeting April 29 at 2 p.m. in Hughes- Trigg to discuss all of the task force recommendations, says Patrick Hite in an e-mail. In order to have after-hours care on the SMU campus, Hite says the Health Center needs “budget increases to operate the center longer and to pay staff.”

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