A NUMBER of administrative difficulties have been blamed for a delay in registering the Student Health Service with the GMS medical card scheme. Plans to establish a prescription service, which would enable students who hold a medical card to obtain a prescription from the Student Health Service, have been impeded for the past month.
It is unclear when the prescription system shall come into effect, however Vice-President for Students, Dr Martin Butler is confident that students who hold medical cards will have the option of going to the Student Heath Service for prescriptions by late November.
Explaining that the delays are the result of “administrative issues”, Dr Butler described the implementation of such a system as “imminent”, adding that the university is currently “fine-tuning, and understanding the impediments to [the system]”.
The university is also negotiating with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to have a doctor registered with the GMS scheme so that students with a medical card could see the UCD-based doctor, in addition to their personal GP, without paying a fee. Director of the Student Health Service, Dr Sandra Tighe has welcomed this process.
However, Dr Tighe illustrated that as HSE funding would finance the doctor’s care for GMS patients only, those without a medical card would not be covered. “It would have to be used for caring for GMS patients… so the GMS could not be regarded as supplementing the university budget”.
Dr Tighe also stressed her concern over increasing wait times for students to be seen. Acknowledging an increase in demand since the beginning of this semester, Dr Tighe described the current situation as “quite difficult”. She is also concerned that the situation will not improve in the short-term as a vacant nursing post is not to be filled.
“Our half-time nurse just recently retired… her post is not being replaced, which is going to make things worse. At the beginning of the afternoon, there’ll be at least ten people waiting for each nurse by 2.30pm… now, we only have one nurse”.
Stating that the university is “still challenged” to provide a health care service for students, Dr Butler has acknowledged that charging fees is “an option”. He believes that over 50 per cent of students go to a personal GP, as oppose to the Student Health Service, and has come under criticism from students for suggesting an introduction of charges for the service.
Student’s Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá is concerned that “there will be a seperate fight” over the introduction of fees next year. He hopes that the recent increase in registration fees will be sufficient in providing additional funding for the Student Health Service, however Mr Ó Deá acknowledged that the university may suggest that students pay a fee of approximately €10 per visit, similiar to a system which has recently been introduced in Dublin City University (DCU).