AN OPTION to extend the opening hours of the Student Health Service has been considered by Vice-President for Students, Dr Martin Butler and members of the Students’ Union (SU). This development comes as staff and students source funding to ease visit waiting lists.
SU President, Aodhán ÓDeá explained that his priority is to ensure that the current heatlhcare services remain protected, stating that “we would have to ring fence what we have”. He believes students could be charged for a visit during additional opening hours, arguing that this would be “fair… we’re in a recession and realistically, the funding isn’t going to be there. It’s the same service but it’s offering students another avenue”.
Adament that the Student Health Service “should be free for everyone”, Mr Ó Deá feels that students “must have a commitment that whatever we have now will remain absolutely free”. While he has been mandated to refuse any health service fee suggestions, Mr ÓDeá said that he would welcome Dr Butler to approach the students with other funding options for the service.
Denying statements from Dr Butler that “the ball is now in (the SU’s) court, for them to come back now with what they see as the options”, Mr Ó Deá explained that he will not talk about “implementing any sort of [general] charge”. However, he does invite Dr Butler to discuss “opening hours in the evening or bringing in VHI”, adding that “there’s scope for that”.
Aiming to supply “comprehensive service for all our students”, Dr Butler spoke of recent agreement which entitles students with medical cards to obtain prescription medicine, allowing “a small income [that will] flow to the Student Health Service and that money will stay within the UCD Health Service”. Arguing that “realistically, funding is not going to come from university or government sources, it’s going to have to come from students”, Dr Butler explained that the Student Health Service in the process of becoming “formally registered with the Health Service Executive (HSE)”, however he added that “that is a long road”.
Describing the debate between staff and students on future funding of the Student Health Service as “moving along”, Dr Butler acknowledged that students “understand the challanege and the issues”, however he stated that “there is work to be done among themselves to work through the options”.