By Kayla Wiles, Columnist
The Greenville News reported Feb. 6 that the Bon Secours St. Francis Health System plans to build a new urgent care clinic to divert patients due to excessive emergency room visits, reflecting a nationwide trend.
For Furman students, this new facility will be one more resource to use in case of mild emergencies — such as an upper respiratory infection or sore throat — during campus infirmary after-hours.
“We’re very much like our own urgent care center right on campus,” said Mary Haselden, the nurse practitioner for Furman’s infirmary. “But after-hours, students may go immediately to one of the urgent care clinics. And we use them for more extensive diagnostics.”
The infirmary, said Haselden, is designed to be the “first stop” for students before seeking off-campus urgent care because the same conditions are treated during the infirmary’s hours without charging third-party insurance.
“Studies have shown that most people who even go to an emergency room are going to have the things that can be treated in a primary care office or an urgent care center,” Haselden said. “So the urgent care centers are supposed to provide more accessible and affordable care to people. This is nationwide.”
The infirmary refers students to several different urgent care clinics in the upstate — the CVS Minute Clinic on Highway 25 as well as EmergencyMD and AFC Urgent Care on North Pleasantburg Drive, to name a few. The new Bon Secours urgent care clinic would be added to this list, Haselden said.
Because Furman is not affiliated with these urgent care clinics or other emergency rooms in the Greenville area, the infirmary does not keep data on how many students seek care at these locations, only noting that patient visits to the infirmary have increased and that about once a week an on-call staff member has reported a student going to the ER for an alcohol-related problem.
Officers with the Furman University Police Department (FUPD) complete a report every time that an ambulance is called to campus, but the report does not outline the diagnosis for the student, said Chief Tom Saccenti.
While no hard data indicates how often Furman students visit the ER due to alcohol, the 2016 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey conducted by the Division of Student Life showed that approximately 36 percent of students reported binge drinking recently and 83 percent “saw drinking as the social life of male students.”
“Students often come to me seeking support and resources,” said Stephanie Boyd, the assistant dean of students and alcohol and drug education coordinator. “The best way to increase the utilization of any resources is to increase the awareness that it exists.”
Sarah Hinton, the medical director of the Furman infirmary who also works for the Greenville Health System Department of Pediatrics, believes that students should take more advantage of campus health resources. “Truly, I think Furman students have excellent access to health care,” she said.
Despite the daytime and after-hours provision of urgent care and doctors or a nurse practitioner working in the infirmary on most days and times, Haselden believes that it would be helpful for Furman students to have a nurse to call in the middle of night instead of visiting the ER or another urgent care facility.
“We’ve done some external reviews, we try to change things, but at present there is not an immediate plan for that,” she said.