ANU Will Outsource, Expand Health & Counselling Services
GP availability and counselling services will be expanded in the Union Court redevelopment, with ANU announcing today that the National Health Co-op (NHC) will run a new “health and wellness centre”. ANU students will receive free NHC membership starting next semester, while the new centre is constructed. ANUSA Vice-President Eleanor Kay was positive about the move, saying, “students will be able to access expanded services on campus but also off campus.”
NHC, according to its website, is a “not-for-profit, member owned co-operative that provides affordable medical and healthcare services”. It currently operates eight centres around Canberra, with plans for national expansion. Members pay $10 per month, and can then access unlimited bulk-billed doctors’ appointments, as well as other services at a discounted rate. This membership will be free for students, but staff will have to pay.
Mental health services will also be expanded by the NHC. The Counselling Centre will continue to operate, according to ANU, but NHC will provide “additional support”. NHC currently offers psychologist services for members at $85 per session. Whether this will be offered at the Health and Wellbeing Centre is unclear, but ANU says the new plan will help them provide an “increased range of services as well as specialised clinics” and “increased counselling”. Kay expressed approval of these “additional resources to mental health”, which may come in part be due to widespread criticism of the Counselling Centre in past years. ANUSA’s 2016 counselling survey revealed students faced an average waiting time of 3-4 weeks, and that 75% of respondents had avoided making an appointment due to the wait time.
It is not known which, if any, doctors from the Health Centre will work in the new space from 2019. The ANU has promised that a full list of GPs “will be made available online” before NHC takes over. Regarding the sharing of medical records, ANU says that health records will be given when a student becomes a member of NHC. All records will then be given to NHC in 2019 when it opens on campus. “Patients will be given 30 days-notice” of this, according to the Reunion website, and can request that their records be transferred instead to a different GP or to themselves.
Kay said that ANUSA is “looking forward to working with NHC”. 2016 ANUSA President Ben Gill and Vice-President Clodagh O’Doherty were consulted last year regarding who would operate the new Centre, though the SRC and the wider student body were not consulted. Kay, however, said, “we welcome students letting us know if they are concerned so issues can be addressed.”
Students can use NHC’s clinics in Macquarie, Evatt, Belconnen, Higgins, Kippax (Holt), Charnwood, Chisholm and Wanniassa from Semester Two. ANUSA and the ANU both highlighted the benefit this provides for non-residential students. The new Health and Wellbeing Centre is scheduled to open in September 2019.