UHS Considers Cutting Infirmary Hours over Summer

Harvard University Health Services is considering plans to close Stillman Infirmary, Harvard’s center for 24-hour care, and after-hours urgent care between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. this summer, according to University spokesperson Nanci Martin.

UHS recently notified Harvard’s schools of the potential changes and is now in the process of reviewing the plan after receiving the schools’ feedback, Martin wrote in an email.

The Stillman Infirmary is UHS’s ten-bed facility for inpatient care that currently operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, according to the UHS website. The infirmary is meant for students who are too ill to stay in their own residence but who are not in a condition serious enough for hospitalization.

The Stillman Center is the primary on-campus treatment center for students with acute alcohol-related illnesses.

The summer nighttime closure would last from June 4 to Aug. 12 of this year. During those weeks, urgent care would still be provided during the day, and after-hours urgent care would be provided on weekdays at UHS’s Holyoke location from 4 to 11 p,m. and on weekends and holidays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

But when the after-hours care center is closed, calls to UHS requiring urgent care would be forwarded to a clinical triage service, which would either give the patient advice, recommend a follow-up visit the next business day, or instruct the patient to visit the nearest emergency room.

According to Martin’s email, UHS is considering this approach “in response to a careful review of the utilization over the past few years that revealed limited need for overnight coverage during the summer months.”

Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, which represents many UHS employees, said that HUCTW has been assured that the potential closures would have “no impact” on its members. Jaeger said this meant that there would be no layoffs, no reductions in hours, and no involuntary schedule changes involved.

Aaron N. Cheng ’15, who is staying on campus this summer to take Chemistry 20 and work on a project for the President’s Challenge, said that given the reduced number of students who stay the summer compared to term-time, the closure is understandable. He added that he feels safe knowing that University health services will still be open during the day.

“I can’t say I’m overly concerned,” Cheng said. “I don’t think this will really affect me. Then again, if I were to get sick, I wouldn’t be expecting it.”

During the summer of 2009, HUHS closed or reduced some services normally provided by its Department of Behavioral Health and Academic Counseling, which includes the Bureau of Study Counsel, the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services, and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

—Staff writer Dan Dou can be reached at ddou@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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