UVic Health Services ‘toes the line’ on missed appointments

Recently a new sign has appeared on the door of the Jack Petersen Health Centre reminding students they will be charged for missed pre-registered appointments. The policy states that if students miss appointments without giving 24-hours’ notice, they will be fined $50. The 50-dollar fine applies to appointments with nurses and physicians, while if students miss an appointment with a psychiatrist without 24-hours’ notice, they will be fined $100.

“We’ve had this policy for a while,” says Director of Health Services Judy Burgess. “We were just getting really flexible with it, but we are now trying to be more efficient. Our goal is to keep our doctors on time so students don’t have to wait that long. Now we really try to keep everybody on time.” Being more efficient means being able to have time to see more students, which is important with the large number of students Health Services sees. The department’s annual report for April 1, 2012 – March 2013 states that within that time their physician/nurse team provided care to 6 214 patients through a total of 18 558 appointments. The centre is home to a team of practitioners, staff, and visiting specialists who provide clinical services to over 100 students each day. “We’re serving 40 per cent of the students that are on campus; it’s a big handle,” says Burgess. “We would like to serve more, but we don’t have that capacity . . . We need students to show up and, if not, give 24-hours’ notice to allow other students to take their place.”

According to Burgess, no-show students are a common thing. On Oct. 11, at 1 p.m. the clinic already had eight students fail to show up to their appointments without giving adequate notice. “It’s substantial,” says Burgess, and although doctor’s appointments can often be filled, psychiatry is much harder to fill when someone doesn’t show to his or her appointment. “[No-shows] happen pretty much every day to psychiatrists, and it’s taking a big portion of the psychiatrists’ day,” says Burgess. “If a psychiatrist is just sitting there with no one to talk to, we need to pay them for their time.”

Although the department is being more strict on its policy, UVic Health Services is more than willing to accommodate if given 24-hours’ notice. “We’re very flexible in that [24 hour] time frame, as long as they call ahead,” states Burgess, and with this policy Health Services is still offering some flexibility. “We don’t want to cause extra distress to anyone in jeopardy . . . Some people are sick at home and don’t want to come in and see the doctor.” Students can leave a message in the middle of the night for the office under these circumstances. “We’re flexible, but we need to toe the line,” says Judy. “Our goals are to increase access . . . this is not an unusual policy. The message to students is that an appointment is an important thing.”

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