Emily Gao
Mercury Staff

Students report late fees, convenience of center

The Student Health Center provides a range of medical services from blood work to prescribing birth control, but despite its benefits, students have given the center mixed reviews.

Criminology senior Simone Sanborn has been a regular patient at the SHC since her freshman year at UTD, and said she has had positive experiences with both staff and medical professionals during her visits. Like other students who aren’t from the Dallas area, Sanborn goes to the SHC during the school year because of its location on campus, and has been going since freshman year.

“I have a chronic illness so I’m in there every three months at least,” Sanborn said. “My primary care physician is in central Texas, so it’s not at all feasible to go down there, so I kind of switched all of my prescriptions and general health appointments slowly in my freshman year to the clinic here and then I never left. There’s a lot of time dedicated to me, everyone is very nice, I don’t ever feel rushed and they’re always very accommodating with any questions.”

According to Google reviews, a repeated complaint that students have with the SHC is the $25 fine that is imposed if patients with appointments do not check in by their scheduled time. A survey of 104 students conducted by The Mercury found that 4% of students have had to pay this fine. Actuarial science senior Mercedes Rodriguez left a review after she had to pay the fine.

“Most places have a small grace period for being late. I got stuck in traffic and was 8 minutes late, tried calling but got a weird menu,” Rodriguez wrote. “I was charged $25 for being a no-show even though I was there. I didn’t get to see a doctor and was told to wait another hour for a new appointment. I will never ever go there again.”

SHC Director Lea Aubrey, said that the no-show fee was raised to $25 from $5 in order to encourage students to call ahead to cancel appointments that were no longer needed, which would make room for other students who need medical services, and would match the practices of other schools in the UT system.

“We advise (students) that if you decide at any point that you don’t need this appointment anymore, please call within the hour so we can cancel (the appointment) without a no-show fee,” Aubrey said. “By increasing the fee, it promoted people to call and actually cancel the appointment. I get it, the $25, they don’t want to pay it. But what you’ll see in the community, it’s more than that — it’s up to $50 if you miss an appointment.”

The administration has implemented changes after feedback in the patient exit survey, including those of staff and practitioner interactions.

“We usually survey our patients after their visits as a way to keep on top of how we’re doing and to see, ‘What are some things we can make better?’ and ‘What are the students saying we could do better,’” Aubrey said. “There is constantly staff development going on whenever there is an incident outside of annual training. We come together and talk about how we can improve.”

The SHC provides a medical care option for students without insurance who have paid the medical service fee, which allows students to schedule appointments without additional cost. This affordability is a contributing factor of 29.6% of respondents who chose the SHC as a medical care provider. The SHC minimizes student costs by working with community partners that provide free additional services to students.

“We have free dental screening because students would come in and ask about dental services, so we reached out to a community partner. Another community partner comes on and they do free vision screenings,” Aubrey said. “We also have a mobile X-ray service that is really convenient for the student — they don’t have to leave the campus, they can get everything done here. We work with Turning Point, a local company that provides an advocate and a sexual assault nurse examiner.”

In addition to partnering with local service providers, the SHC employs board-certified/licensed medical staff and patient care specialists that directly treat patients, administrative staff, an insurance coordinator to manage records and a consulting pharmacist. In the survey, two of the top services respondents chose were physical exams and vaccinations, and 5 of the 104 respondents said they go to the SHC for gynecological care.  The SHC is also in the process of hiring a phlebotomist, Aubrey said, in order for the center to be more efficient.

“I always encourage our staff to have really good bedside manners as it pertains to our clinical staff and really excellent customer service for our front staff,” Aubrey said. “I want our students to have a really positive experience. It is about being a really good listener, to respect our students as young adults, making sure that we are transparent with them, and it is to provide them with options.”