Limited UHS hours affect student life

Lisa Dreher

It was 2 a.m. on a Sunday night, and radio-television-film junior Miguel Salazar had been vomitting at his apartment for the past three hours. After a panicky phone call with his parents, he suspected it was appendicitus. Salazar called University Health Services, but it was closed.

“I tried to find places that were open,” Salazar said. “It’s Sunday at 2 a.m.; I’m not going to get anything here.”

UHS urgent care is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the week, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and is not open on Sundays. UHS director Jamie Shutter said the clinic cannot be open later because the center lacks the proper funding. 

“We would love to have expanded hours but we don’t have the budget resources to be able to do that at this time,” Shutter said.

Shutter said the clinic used to operate until 8 p.m., but hours were cut because the services were unused late at night. 

Nursing director Kathy Mosteller said UHS started offering lunchtime appointments this year to accomodate different schedules and payment methods.

“Those have been very well recieved by students and those appointments never go empty,” Mosteller said. “If we can get the students to come here when we’re open they can save a lot of money.”

UHS does not requires students to have insurance and offers affordable payment plans. According to their website, there is a $10 charge for care and discounted out-of-pocket fees. 

Additionally, the UT System offers a Student Health Insurance Plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield. 

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, the average cost of an urgent care visit in 2009 was $155.  

“The self-pay rates here are the cheapest rates you’ll find around Austin,” J.R. Munoz, referral coordinator for UHS cashier and insurance, said.

Nylie Kasparian, kinesiology and health promotion senior, said she thought she had the flu one Saturday night, after the clinic was already closed. Kasparian said most health centers, including UHS and MedSpring Urgent Care do not accept her health insurance. 

MedSpring Urgent Care has facilities located within five miles of campus, with one location on Guadalupe, and are open longer than UHS. They provide care for serious but non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses that do not demand emergency attention. 

“I do the $10 charge, but it makes it tough because if I need to get tested or something it’s out of pocket,” Kasparian said. 

Mosteller said students are advised to call the 24-hour nurse advice line whenever they are unsure of what to do. 

“They’re going to get some guidance and also some recommendations of things that the student can do on their own to help improve,” UHS nursing director Kathy Mosteller said.

Salazar said he did not know the advice line was open and slept through the pain to avoid footing a potential emergency room bill.

“I’m not going to let a stomach pain, which hurts a lot, ruin me financially,” Salazar said.

Salazar’s stomach pain went away after his UHS appointment the following Monday, but said he wished it was open the night before to ease his anxiety.

“If I had been able to run the tests at a time where I was actually in pain maybe that would’ve helped way more and made things easier at a personal and financial level,” Salazar said.