Verbum Ultimum: Making Health a Priority
Back in October 2011, The Dartmouth reported that the College was in the process of hiring additional mental health counselors and would be considering ways to expand the space available within Dick's House physical plant ("Dick's House undergoes review," Oct. 3, 2011). These changes were proposed in response to last spring's external review of campus health services, which revealed severe deficiencies in mental health services, sports medicine and the availability of primary care examination rooms. The report came as no surprise to many Dartmouth students, who have long complained of poor and inefficient care at Dick's House.
However, it does not appear that in the months since the review took place that the College has given the issue of expansion and accessibility enough attention, and these urgent shortcomings in campus health care delivery have yet to be ameliorated by the administration.
Last May, Zoe Friedland, submitted a guest column detailing her struggles to obtain counseling at Dartmouth after the death of a close friend ("Commit to Counseling Access," May 17, 2011). Friedland was informed that the wait time for "non-emergency" counseling appointments would, astonishingly, be over a month long. The long wait times for appointments are in large part the result of staffing cuts made by Dartmouth College Health Service during the College's period of budget cuts. The provision of adequate funds, facilities and staff for health care and particularly mental health care for the Dartmouth community should be the foremost consideration in any budgetary decision.
We again see the administration's lack of urgency in regards to the chronic lack of space for medical services in Dick's House. The problem is at the point where, in some instances, sick students have been turned away from the inpatient department because Dick's House simply did not have room. Dartmouth College Health Service has claimed that it will "rearrange existing facilities" to help address the issue. However, if problems stem from what Director of Health Services Jack Turco deemed an insufficient number of primary care examination rooms, then it seems absurd to suggest that simply rearranging the space is an adequate solution. Indeed, Turco has stated that he would be in favor of the construction of a new physical plant but that this is unlikely to be approved. If a new building is necessary to provide effective care for students, then its construction should be a priority.
These stunning failures in the provision of basic health services to Dartmouth students seem inconsistent with College President Jim Yong Kim's stance on improving health care delivery. The College should look to its own students before embarking on ambitious health care delivery projects beyond the borders of Hanover. It is well past time for the administration to get Dick's House in order.