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UHS To Develop New Protocols After Closing Overnight Beds

UPDATED: February 18, 2015, at 11:31 a.m.

After the impending closure of Stillman Infirmary and its 10 overnight observation beds, Harvard University Health Services will use the new space to expand patient booking resources and mental health resources by 20 to 25 percent, according to UHS Director Paul J. Barreira.

Dermatology and allergy care, which currently share the third floor with Stillman, will be relocated to the fifth floor in a construction project that Barreira said he hopes will begin this summer.

Stillman After Hours

According to Barreira, architects are drafting floor plans, which the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will then have to approve before the repurposing can begin. Construction, he said, would likely last through the fall semester, adding that 24-hour urgent care will still be available under the changes.

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The news that Stillman would close at the end of the academic year prompted student outcry last fall. 

Barreira said Stillman’s current location is an “incredibly valuable clinical space” that is currently being used to treat about 250 students who, he said, can be treated elsewhere. 

“We can treat those students safely and effectively without the observation beds,” he said, “so why wouldn't we do that so that we can then use the space to maximize medical and counseling mental health services for a greater number of students.”

To maintain the kind of treatment currently offered by Stillman, UHS administrators are in the stages of producing protocol for the treatment of three prospective after-hours patient groups, including students who are seeking services for intoxication, mental health concerns, and medical or orthopedic issues.

Though reclining chairs and gurneys will likely replace the overnight beds previously used by students in these three groups, Barreira said the processes of receiving care will generally remain unchanged. Those chairs and gurneys will be located on UHS’s third floor, he said.

Patient group procedures are simultaneously being reviewed and assessed by working groups assembled by Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde. One group composed of UHS staff, House masters, deans, tutors, and students will be meeting regularly, while two smaller groups with tutors and students are scheduled to convene as well.

“We have to have people who have a stake in their part of the issues to articulate all the parts of problem from their perspective,” Lassonde said.

The groups were first given a new protocol for treating intoxicated students and are currently discussing the details of how it will be implemented. As the procedures for each group are addressed and approved by both the working groups and UHS, Barreira said he hopes to implement a rolling closure of the current care structure and begin implementing the new protocols.

According to Undergraduate Council President Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16, the UC is supportive of the plan to improve access to urgent care and increase mental health resources, provided that the changes do not detract from existing services.

“We do not want to see the quality of treatment practices compromised with this reappropriation of resources at UHS,” Nasrollahzadeh said.

—Staff writer Celeste M. Mendoza can be reached at celeste.mendoza@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CelesteMMendoza.

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