Students question McKinley services

By Shannon Smith

Students pay $178 per semester for a service that some do not use and others do not even trust. McKinley Health Center, which has been serving the University for more than 75 years, has some students on campus concerned.

Georgia Oros, freshman in LAS, said students might not take advantage of the services because they are not familiar with the doctors or surroundings.

“To be honest, I know a lot of kids don’t think they need to go to the doctor, let alone to one that they don’t know much about,” Oros said.

Oros said she has experienced the facilities and services of McKinley firsthand.

“As far as the appointment process goes, I thought they were organized and extremely efficient,” Oros said.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    However, Oros said she was nervous about the way her appointment was handled. She said she went in with a nagging cold, and the doctor checked for strep throat, mononucleosis and a sinus infection.

    “Even without the test results back, he gave me generic allergy medicines for the sinus symptoms and penicillin, in case the strep test was positive,” Oros said. “It makes me nervous that they hand out so much medication willingly. My family doctor at home always says, ‘If a doctor feels you don’t need a certain medication, they won’t give it to you just because you don’t feel well.'”

    However, the distribution of the medications was not the only thing that bothered Oros on her visit to McKinley.

    “They had me carry the throat culture for my own strep test down to the lab,” Oros said. “I had to find someone to give it to. It made me worry I did something wrong or gave it to the wrong person.”

    Oros is not alone in having a disconcerting experience at McKinley.

    Laura Freund, senior in LAS, said she had her blood test switched with that of another student’s. Staff at McKinley told Freund that she didn’t have mononucleosis, a very contagious infection, when she really did.

    “I had gone undiagnosed for about three months even before I went to McKinley,” Freund said. “By that time, I had contaminated everyone I could have contaminated. Nothing was life-threatening.”

    Freund said the biggest frustration was feeling sick and having professionals tell her there was nothing wrong.

    “It was more time-consuming and frustrating than life-threatening and dangerous,” Freund said.

    Freund said McKinley contacted her a little more than a week later, and the misdiagnosis was corrected. She said she was not terribly upset, since mistakes can happen in any field, even in the medical field.

    “I’m just glad I have medical care in general,” Freund said. “When I complain about something as little as this, I think about the times that I have been helped.”

    Dr. David Lawrance, medical director at McKinley Health Center, said McKinley invests a lot of money in being accurate as possible.

    “If there is any kind of service error, there was someone who paid a lot of money for us to take care of them,” Lawrance said. “We take every complaint seriously. We encourage people to let us know when they think we could do something better. Patients and clients are our best source of how we’re doing.”

    Freund said for a student health center, McKinley is very good. She said her one complaint is that McKinley is not very equipped to deal with serious illnesses.

    “No one goes in there with a heart attack,” Freund said. “They aren’t trained to handle the more complicated diseases. If you have a really big problem, you need to go to the hospital instead.”

    Lawrance said that McKinley advertises its services as general practice and the majority of people know that coming in.

    “As far as care, we’re a general practice, and for the most part we don’t do specialty care,” Lawrance said.

    However, Lawrance said McKinley does refer students to specialists or hospitals if that’s what their case calls for. Any medical care handled outside of McKinley is not covered by the University service fee, but is managed through the student’s individual health insurance plan.

    “We try to get them to somebody who is knowledgeable,” Lawrance said. “If they can tell us where they’re covered, that’s where we’re going to try to get them in.”

    Lawrance said McKinley prides itself in its staff. He said the procedure for hiring new staff members is complicated. For example, when hiring a new physician, the administration searches a three-state area and goes through a long interview process, which can take up to three months.

    “All of our physicians are licensed in the state of Illinois,” Lawrance said. “In the last three years, everyone we have hired has been board-certified. And anyone who is not board-certified has been practicing for many years.”

    Lawrance also said that McKinley is the only clinic in town accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, meaning that McKinley meets all its quality standards. Lawrance said McKinley staff are confident in themselves, and the numbers show that the students are too.

    “Two-thirds of students on campus will use us in any year,” Lawrance said. “Half will use us at least twice.”

    Freund said that this could be because students find the services very easy to use.

    “People find it very convenient, with things such as the health pack,” Freund said. “For prevention, it’s great.”

    Even so, both Oros and Freund said they have heard bad rumors about the validity of McKinley and its services.

    “I know a lot of people don’t have faith in McKinley, but I think it’s because they hear about stories like these,” Freund said. “There are all these nicknames, like ‘McKillme.'”

    Lawrance said not to let select stories or gossip deter students from using the campus health facilities.

    “Don’t rely on rumors,” Lawrance said. “Come and use us. You don’t have to be sick to meet your doctors. You should use the services you have already paid for.”