UCD’s Health Centre, located in the Student Centre, is currently up for tender.
Current Medical Director of the Student Health Centre, Dr Sandra Tighe, was first made aware of the Health Centre being put out for tender in September 2010, “with what I was informed was a view to augmenting the Student Health Service as opposed to replacing the Health Service so I don’t know really, what’s happening in relation to it or how it might impact on my service or my role.”
Dr Tighe was assured that jobs would not be affected, however she admits that “we are concerned for both our own future, the integrity of the service and the quality of care that may be there in the future for students.”
Dr Tighe explains that a service that is part funded by the University is most beneficial to students: “If you’re expecting students to pay out of pocket the full commercial cost for a GP visit, plus enough to generate a profit it would be very difficult to deliver high quality care to students at a reasonable cost and generate a profit.
“There’s a perception that private is more efficient than public but I don’t think that there’s any evidence to support that. I think that people need to look at what the evidence is for the outcomes in profit-driven health services, for example what is the evidence of quality of care in say, [the] state system, where it is a profit system whereas the system we have here is that most practices are a small business; they need to generate a small profit but there isn’t a third party involved that they’re looking to generate money for.”
UCD Students’ Union President Pat de Brún also expressed uncertainty as to whether privatisation would be the most effective option for the Health Centre. “The idea of complete commercialisation of the Student Health Service would concern me so I am trying to find out more information at the moment and trying to work with the Health Centre and the University to find out what the aim of this is and if it would be beneficial or not.”
Dr Tighe noted that there are various locations around UCD that provide similar services to the Health Centre, and as such, are its direct competition. These include the Beacon, Blackrock Clinic and Vincent’s Private Hospital. “There’s a lot of people competing for quite a limited private market, so I fully empathise with the college’s position. We’ve co-operated in every way with the charging, with cost-efficiencies and the rest of it.”
“I feel very proud of what we’ve managed to develop since I started nearly fifteen years ago now – we’ve developed the service significantly for students, we provide longer opening hours than any other health service in the country, we have the equivalent of a greater range of services than any other health service in the country and we operate with resources that are equivalently less, due to the budgetary situation.”
In August 2011, Dr Tighe put forward a proposal entitled ‘Implement a New Vision of Student Health’, which illustrated an operational plan for the future of the Health Centre.
Centric is the only company to have placed a tender for the Health Centre thus far.