STUDENT Health Service fees are being debated between university staff and student representatives, in an effort to solve funding and staff problems of the Student Health Service.
Stating that he does not expect the university to suggest that all students pay a fee for use of the Health Service, Students’ Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá explained that he believes that the university will “try to introduce something whereby international students will have to pay”.
Mr Ó Deá said that he will have to examine the university’s proposal before deciding on further action, however he stated that doesn’t “think any student should be charged, it doesn’t matter if they’re from Ireland or not”.
Believing that there is a “debate required” on the future funding of the student health service, Vice President for Students, Dr Martin Butler stressed his desire to explore different funding options for the Health Service. Dr Butler said that he feels that medical card registration, insurance company involvement and student fees for the service could provide an “interesting financial spinoff” for the Student Health Service.
Having stated that he hopes that UCD will be registered with the medical card scheme within the coming weeks, Dr Butler hopes to investigate the possibilities of establishing a health insurance company on campus. He also aims to encourage dialogue among students who pay for service from their local GP, instead of the Student Health Service.
Students’ Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá argued that “it’s fundamental that we have a free health service, that our students are looked after”. While Mr Ó Deá stated that “basic heathcare should be free”, he continued to comment that “there is scope for some of the services” planned for the new Student Centre, such as a doctor or optician.
Stating that the university appears to be “trying to sneak in fees through every back door”, Mr Ó Deá believes that UCD is “not going to push another (proposal) that will affect all students”. He also rejected suggestions of a health insurance company operating in UCD and of a medical card system whereby only some students would not pay.
Describing the current situation of the Health Centre as “particularly difficult”, Director of Student Health Service, Dr Sandra Tighe stated that waiting lists to see a doctor are going to grow over the coming weeks. Explaining that the wait time “is not usually that bad at this time of year”, Dr Tighe confirmed that students are now facing an average wait time of ten days.
Dr Tighe feels the Health Service has been “particularly badly hit” by budget cut backs, and she doubts that a replacement nurse will be hired to replace one who will retire at the end of October. She explained that “there’s basically less people to do the work this year and it’ll be particularly difficult without the half time nurse”.
Certain that there are “no immediate solutions”, Dr Tighe stressed Health Service staff are looking at all funding alternatives. “We’re looking at all options and I haven’t got any of the answers at the minute but it doesn’t appear that the university is in a position to give us further funding”.