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In Sickness and in Health: A Rocky Relationship with the Health Center

Last Tuesday, I woke up feeling awful. I had difficulty breathing overnight, which persisted into the day. My head ached along with the rest of my body

I called my mom and told her about my illness.
Immediately, she related the symptoms of the H1N1 virus and told me to go to the Health Center.

Once there, I read a pamphlet at the front desk describing the symptoms for the Swine flu virus, and I could identify all of them, except for the fever.

I told the lady at the front desk. Her reply was, “Make an appointment.”

Are you serious?

You tell me to make an appointment for a virus that if not treated on time can kill people?

Then she tells me that there is no available space on Wednesday but Thursday worked. All I wanted to know was whether or not I had the flu.

Then one of the nurses or assistants hears me, lets me in and takes my temperature. With no fever the nurse gives me medicine and lets me go, with an appointment on Thursday.

I was researching about Swine flu for a paper for one of my classes, and, as an interesting side note, fever, as a symptom, doesn’t necessarily appear.

The Health Center webpage explains how students testing positive are treated on Tamiflu or Relenza and how “these medications work best if started within two days of developing symptoms, so it is important to contact The Health Center as soon as symptoms arise.”

My appointment was scheduled for Thursday, which meant that if I had the flu, I wouldn’t be able to be treated.

Thursday arrived. I only had a cold. A doctor who was very nice, whom I have no complaints with, treated me.
However, what bothers me is how you let someone who has the symptoms of the H1N1 virus go out without even taking the prevention of at least taking a test.

I live on campus and went to class those days. From Tuesday to Thursday, how many other people could I have infected?

What’s the point of going “as soon as symptoms arise” as the web page says, if there is no immediate treatment?
Then there are the low human resources. The lady at the front desk was not nice to me and the other students there. I don’t know how qualified the people in the Health Center are (for the tuition we pay I hope they are very qualified).

When you give someone a job that requires plenty of person-to-person interaction (in this case with sick people) you don’t give it to someone who at four in the afternoon is already going to be pissed or tired or disrespectful.

There is nothing wrong in not having charisma. Not everyone knows how to deal with people.

What is wrong, is to put someone lacking charisma to work in a place where she would have to deal with people all day.

I’m concerned how the Health Center is going to make it through the flu season, when in at the beginning of school they were already scheduling appointments two days later.
Students need to react to this. Maybe some of the Health Center staff forget, as I did, that they are not doing any “charity” on treating us. We pay for care.

We deserve to be treated on time when we are sick. If they are incapable of receiving so many people in one day, they should not put potentially affected students back into classrooms and on a waiting list.

What good is medicating one student when they’ve roamed the campus and possibly infected others?

The Health Center should accommodate the students, not the students to the Health Center.

Carolina Olaya can be reached at

5 Comments on In Sickness and in Health: A Rocky Relationship with the Health Center

  1. What i really don’t get is how they would diagnose someone with a flu telling her not to leave her room and wear a mask when close to people for a week, when she asked if it was swine flu, she didnt get any clear answer… she was prescribed a meicine for swine flu though, felt completely normal the day after she started the medication, and they had her stay with her 2 other roommates, not even contacting her roommates or advising them what to do..


  2. Thank you for conceding my point. UT paid that much to the contractor, TEAM, who then pays the staff and NPs at the health center. The staff and practitioners have no control over how much money they receive or how much they charge the students.

    I have also been a patient at the Health Center and received great service and an accurate diagnosis. I’m sorry for your disappointing experience.

    I think your $5,241,771 error trumps my use of the word epidemic. I would be more scared of a pandemic since that means the disease is now spreading over a much larger region, worldwide for instance.

    I was very impressed with your use of the word cavalcade…kudos to you.


  3. “…but the University does not pay any money directly to the Health Center”

    If they don’t pay any money directly to the health center, then they are laundering a lot of money to someone noted on their tax filings as “health center contractor.” My $6 million number was pulled from a back file of memory, and was wrong by a digit. The actual file indicates that they paid $758,229 in 2007 (the last available/public year) for the health center. That’s about $150/student to be told you’re pregnant or have mono, on top of the $250/student you pay in tuition for their health insurance through United Healthcare.

    Regardless of my lack of a PhD, I believe I am allowed to criticize NPs for their cavalcade of wrong diagnoses that I’ve experienced as a patient.

    And to clarify — you are incorrect about the “current flu epidemic.” Last year it was declared a pandemic, a step or two below full “everyone freak out” status assigned to an epidemic. No need to scare anyone more than you already have.


  4. Most primary care physicians are not able to treat patients the same day either, especially if you do not go first thing in the morning. I know from experience that the UT Health Center will see you immediately if you arrive in the morning to early afternoon, between 8 am and 2 pm. You did not specify what time you arrived at the Center, but you mentioned 4 pm as the time in which their administrative staff was already “pissed or tired or disrespectful”. If this was the time you sought treatment, but your symptoms were that persistent on Tuesday morning, why did you wait until 4 in the afternoon to get treated? Any professor would have accepted your absence from class given your symptoms and the current flu epidemic. It’s just as much the patient’s responsibility to minimize contagion effects and manage their illness while waiting for treatment as it is the doctor’s or nurse practitioner’s responsibility to treat you as soon as possible. That being sad, there are numerous walk-in clinics in Tampa, at least one I know of within walking distance of UT that you could have visited if necessary.

    To Peter – I’m not sure where you received your information, but the University does not pay any money directly to the Health Center. They are contracted through a private company with no affiliation to the university to provide health services at UT. I have heard that the staff has been lobbying for a larger facility and more funding to increase staff and capacity. Your qualms should be with the university and/or the contractor to provide more funding, which would allow the Center to increase their capacity and see more patients daily. And unless you have a PhD, I don’t think you have any room to criticize a nurse practitioner (who in most cases has just as much, if not more, hands-on training and experience as a general practice doctor does) or their diagnoses.


  5. Please note that you did not, in fact, see a doctor at the health center. Unless there has been a major change, there are no doctors at UT’s health center. They are nurse practitioners (NPs) and do not have the education or training that doctors have. For the roughly $6 million that UT pays the health center each year, they should certainly be able to do a lot better than spinning the “wheel of diagnoses” (pregnancy, mono or tonsillitis) for everyone who walks through the door. They dispense antibiotics for non-bacterial infections, which will not result in improvement. Please, please, go see a real doctor at an office in Tampa or the ER.


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