A University spokesperson has defended the introduction of fees for the Student Health Service, which came into effect on 6th September. The charges; €10 to see a nurse, €25 to see a doctor and €40 to see a psychiatrist; are expected to help cover the costs of running the Health Centre, which amount to €750,000 annually for doctor and nurse consultations, and €650,000 for the student counselling services.
University officials have defended the rates, stating that they are around fifty per cent of the typical GP charges. They also said that while the new charges won’t make a profit, the cutting of university funding meant that the introduction of these charges was necessary.
“Given that the University’s funding has been cut again, the decision was taken to introduce a charge for the health service in order to be able to maintain this service,” said the spokesperson. “If they [the students] cannot afford it, they can apply to the Student Welfare Fund. This fund has been increased substantially this year to allow for this need.”
President of the Students’ Union (SU), Gary Redmond, said that while the Health Centre is a vital service for students, it was not prioritised as the most important based on the opinions of students. Redmond referred to the survey conducted by the SU last term, in which the majority of students felt that maintaining the university’s library service was of a higher priority then preventing the introduction of health centre charges.
“The Health Service certainly is an important service, but not the most important one in UCD, as dictated by the students themselves,” explained Redmond. “The SU took their priorities from the survey conducted of all students last semester, in which they stated that maintaining a good library service was more important than preventing the introduction of Health Service charges.”
Redmond stressed that the most vulnerable students will be exempt from the fees, instead having their bills covered by the Student Welfare Fund. He acknowledged that applications for this fund could increase, but felt that it would be difficult to judge how much the number would increase.
The distribution of all funds within the Health Service will be decided by the Director of Student Health, Dr Sandra Tighe, the Vice President for Students, Dr Martin Butler and Redmond. All surplus revenue generated by fees will be allocated to the Health Service and would cover staffing costs and the introduction of extra facilities.