Ohio State's Student Health Services ‘booked solid’ during flu season
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 22:01
As reported cases of the flu continue to rise nationwide, Wilce Student Health Center is bracing for the challenge.
James Jacobs, director of Student Health Services at Ohio State said daily flu shot numbers have tripled since break at the Wilce Student Health Center, and by the time the season is over, staff members expect to have given about 20 percent more flu shots than ever before.
Jacobs said there has been virtually no flu in Central Ohio the past two years, but this winter has deviated from that recent trend. However, despite the rise in cases, there have still been fewer flu-related appointments at the Wilce Student Health Center than other illnesses, such as colds, mononucleosis and strep throat.
“We were seeing flu before winter break, we had positive flu tests, but given the national crisis of flu that we’re having right now, it’s remarkable that we’re not seeing more flu among students,” Jacobs said.
Illness increases during winter months because the cold weather forces people to spend more time inside, Jacobs said, because spending more time inside means spending more time close to others and their sicknesses.
Student Health Services has seen an increase in visits since winter break that it didn’t see during the past two Januarys.
“I don’t have our numbers for January yet, but we expect them to be (higher),” Jacobs said. “In general, we have been essentially booked solid since school restarted, and we expect to see it that way for another week or two.”
The additional shots being administered, appointments being made and an increased number of visits due “slips and falls” during winter months due to ice have led to longer wait times for appointments.
“We are capacity limited. At the end of the day, there’s only so many patients that can be reasonably accommodated,” Jacobs said. “Depending what the situation is, we’ll start double-booking a little bit, we’ll ask folks who (aren’t) scheduled to be seeing patients to actually pitch in and start seeing some patients and then when necessary, we’ll help folks (patients) to find alternatives.”
Student Health Services has a 40-minute appointment time expectation on average, but getting to an appointment early if the center is busy does not mean a student will be finished sooner, Jacobs said.
Rachael Now, a third-year in early childhood education, said she thinks the wait time at the center is reasonable.
“They get all of your information in and you get in and out quickly, so I haven’t had any problems with them,” Now said.
To expediate appointments, self-check-in kiosks at the Student Health Center were installed about three months ago. Online appointment scheduling was also recently implemented, Jacobs said, but he was not able to provide details about the cost and specifics of the timing of those technologies.
Students have three options regarding health care: the OSU Comprehensive Student Health Insurance, a WilceCare supplement that allows students to use the on-campus health centers using their own insurance or opting out of OSU student coverage all together. The OSU Comprehensive Student Health Insurance costs $1,150 per semester, according to the 2012-2013 Student Health Insurance Plan. The WilceCare supplement costs $187 per policy year, which is defined as Fall Semester through Summer Semester, according to the Student Health Insurance Program website.
Some students said they aren’t surprised at the surge in appointments or flu cases, since the cold weather forces many to remain indoors.
“People say you get sick from the cold, but you really don’t. It’s more … being inside and around more people,” said Nick Armold, a first-year in computer science and engineering.
Other students agreed and said friends often choose to stay in rather than brave the cold during the winter, which makes them more likely to encounter illness.
“A lot of kids don’t leave the dorm on the weekends like we used to when the weather was warmer,” said Peter Geraghty, a first-year in social science air transportation.