Health Services renovations complete at last

With the newly renovated Health Services building completed, UW students should not expect too many procedural and service changes said Lannie Butler, a nurse at Health Services, in an exclusive tour around the facility.

Mental health services

The UW mental health services are now located on the second floor of the new building.

There are five psychologists and 25 counsellors on staff, which is an increase from before, however, Butler did not know the extent of the increase.

One of the psychologists and most of the counsellors on staff service both the mental health services offered at Needles Hall and in the health services building.

The clinic will look to hire a full-time psychiatrist in the near future.

One of the other features found on the second floor is a private exit area, where a student in a crisis situation can be privately escorted out of the building and transported to hospital to be seen by a psychiatrist.

“The thing that I was quite happy with that changed in this building structure was that we have a quiet room at the end of this hall,” Butler said. “If there is somebody in crisis and we need to form them — a process that we do where we feel they’re a harm to themselves or someone else —  we will form them and [then] they need to be taken to the hospital and be assessed by a psychiatrist. It’s a difficult process because you want to do what’s best for the patient. If they’re going by ambulance, privacy is not a concern. If they’re going by police car, they need to be cuffed. That was a terrible situation for any student in our old building because there was no way of bringing that student out without going through the waiting room.”

Patient wait times

Health Services hopes to improve on wait times, a goal many other health facilities in the province strive toward.

They are increasing their physician numbers because of the addition of the family clinic, but didn’t hire more doctors for the student wing.

However, Health Services is able to have more doctors on staff at the same time because of the larger amount of space in the new facilities.

“Sometimes, we have up to 10 doctors on staff at the same time, which we couldn’t accommodate in the old facilities because we didn’t have as many rooms for that to happen,” Butler said. “We don’t want students to wait long. We’re trying our best to service them to the best of our abilities, with low wait times.”

Barbara Schumacher, director of Health Services, also touched upon the issue of space in the old facilities and how it affected wait times.

“Clinic capacity is the main barrier to access and we tend to ‘hit’ capacity at consistent times each day.  For a morning clinic that starts at 8:30 a.m., we typically reach capacity just before 11 a.m.” Schumacher said. “This aligns with the average wait time of one hour, meaning that students who register at 11 a.m. will be seen by noon.”

According to Schumacher, students seeking UW Health Services will be seen at least twice as fast as a student who seeks care at the hospital emergency department and their wait times are less than other walk-in clinics in the community.

Project budget

Schumacher was not able to provide the exact dollar figure for the cost of the renovation, but did confirm renovation costs came under the projected $10 million budget.

She also announced that after launching their fundraising campaign, health services has received $1 million in donations.

The timeline for the new expansion was delayed by approximately three months.

“We moved into the completed expansion on February 14, 2013. There was no closure or discontinuation in services,” Schumacher said. “The preparation of the equipment and furnishings was done while we were still in the old building, which permitted the new clinic to open and be fully operational, with only a two-hour delay while we moved people across and completed orientation.”

Health Services then took full possession of the newly renovated space by April, while construction progressed on the Student Care Networks.

Family clinic

Besides the expanded mental health services, the newly renovated building features a new family clinic, which they hope will give way to more co-operation and provide better opportunity for efficiency gains in services.

The family clinic will service visiting undergrads, graduate students, professors, and their spouses. Students, spouses, and extended family can register together and will have physicians available to them that act as a family doctor. The clinic will provide midwives for those patients who are pregnant, and will feature private breastfeeding rooms.

Services at the family clinic are not limited to international students’ families or students who come from outside of Ontario, but Butler said she anticipates most students using or needing this service will fit this demographic.

The family clinic will not be opened for a few weeks.

“We have had families wander in, and I’m encouraging families to keep an eye on the website. There will be communication out on the website… The registration process, we’re waiting for the digital communication people to get back to us with finalizing that. Once we have all that up and running the form will be online, where families can register,” Butler said.

The clinic will start off with a “soft launch” to allow the clinic to “iron out the kinks” and measure demand.

“We don’t have exact numbers yet, but we are anticipating to be busy. We’re in need,” Butler said.

The newly renovated Health Services building will be open to the public Sept. 18. The university will hold a grand opening with refreshments and formal remarks at 10 a.m., followed by guided facility tours.


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