Health is just up the hill and should stay that way

Just last week, Student Health Service celebrated its 75th anniversary of providing affordable health care to UW-Eau Claire students on campus.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing proposals within Student Senate to outsource students’ health service to an off-campus health care provider.

Laura Chellman is the director of SHS, and she has worked there for 25 years.

“The beauty of how we’re funded — through segregated fees allocated by Student Senate — is that students pay around $130 per semester through CampS and have unlimited visits to the clinic,” Chellman said.

Segregated fees refer to charges, in addition to instructional fees, assessed to all students for services, programs and facilities that support the primary mission of the university.

So, if you’re a student and you’ve paid tuition, you can go to SHS with no additional charge beyond the aforementioned fee.

This is important, in particular, for socio-economically disadvantaged students and for those without health insurance. A semester of health care for $130 is a value that isn’t matched anywhere else you go. To put it in perspective, I would pay more for one visit to the health clinic in my hometown.

SHS is an essential outlet for students — if for no other reason than peace of mind. It’s incredibly comforting to know that even away from home, you still have access to health care.

However, Chellman said when it comes to budget crisis time, Senate starts looking at what can be moved off-campus, and often SHS appears on that list.

Libby Richter, a junior social work major and student senator, said she has seen proposals to outsource SHS since her freshman year, but this year’s proposals seem different.

“It started to seem more real to me that Student Health Service would move off-campus once Higherground closed,” Richter said.

She said there is a push in Senate to empty out Crest Wellness Center — the location SHS operates out of, and Higherground was the first step in doing so.

There’s only so much that can be said about the tentative relocation, but the fact there is even a discussion being tabled about changing SHS underscores it as underused and undervalued.

According to the SHS webpage, they offer general medical exams, minor surgical procedures, women’s and men’s health care, allergy shots, mental health counseling and various other services.

Not the least important of these other services includes contraceptive management — a service that could disappear if plans to outsource SHS are carried out.

Richter said she has heard plans within Senate to outsource SHS to a number of places, including Mayo Clinic and Sacred Heart.

Sacred Heart, with its religious affiliation, does not offer contraceptives to patients, which would be extremely problematic if SHS were to relocate to that specific location.

That’s something that has the potential to make a lot of people angry, and rightfully so. But I still haven’t heard of many people who even know outsourcing is a possibility. People should be aware of this very real issue.

More than likely, SHS will always exist in some form at Eau Claire. However, health care is vastly more useful when it provides all the services students need — and when it can be conveniently accessed.

For a student health care provider at Eau Claire, providing all necessary services means continuing to offer contraceptives. Convenient health care means being ‘just up the hill’ and, certainly, it means remaining on campus.