Every once in a while I hear something that makes me seethe.
I am one of the lucky students in college who happens to be married. My wife Rebecca and I recently celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary and are expecting our first child this year. While the thoughts and dreams associated with having a child are idyllic, sometimes being touchy and careful leads to complications and eventual discrimination.
Such was the case when my wife, who is five months pregnant, decided to visit Student Health Services last week to have her foot treated following a sprain. Having dealt with more than a few sprains in my day – none that required more than the standard rest, ice and elevation – I had attempted to offer some help with the matter, but my wife opted instead to see a doctor, a move I couldn’t disagree with.
“I pay a health fee; I might as well have it diagnosed at the health center,” she said.
So Thursday morning, Rebecca ventured to SHS with the intention of being assisted and left feeling discriminated. After the receptionist found out she was pregnant, my wife was shuffled into a private room to have the center’s policies explained to her. The nurse working with my wife said that regardless of the ailment, SHS could not assist a pregnant woman because of the lack of an obstetrician on the premises.
Let’s back up a bit here. If you’re keeping score at home, you’ve caught the part where I said she was shuffled into a private room. She was treated as though her pregnancy was contagious. I’m no expert, but I’m sure privacy was not the issue at hand when she was isolated. Maybe the true reason that pregnant gals are moved to a different room is so that they don’t cause a scene when they are informed that the health fee they paid is basically useless.
I decided to call SHS to get an explanation regarding the policies, and I must admit, I was impressed with the results and resolve that I received. SHS stood firm on its policies and gave me ample explanation, but had no answer regarding the health fee. I later spoke with Lisa Gilley at the University of Florida’s infirmary. According to Gilley, UF’s policies are the same regarding issues of pregnancy, but she stated that a student who was pregnant would not be turned away if they had a foot sprain, as it was an issue unrelated to the pregnancy. You see, the foot bone is connected to the – well, you understand where I’m going with this.
“It could be seen as discrimination,” Gilley said. “You’re basically saying that because of your condition, we’re not going to see you. You could say that is a form of discrimination.”
My sentiments exactly. Maybe I am slightly biased because it was my wife, but the 20-29 age bracket is not an unusual time for pregnancies, nor is it an unusual time for college. According to the March of Dimes, nearly 52 percent of people in that age group account for pregnancies in the United States. How many of those are students? Even if the answer were just one, does it matter?
Every student on this campus pays a health fee, therefore every student on this campus with health problems has the right to be seen and, if possible, treated. A recommendation to an outside physician is pointless. Chances are a pregnant gal already has an OB/GYN. But how many OB/GYN offices diagnose sprained feet?
If you pay a health fee, you should not be discriminated against and turned away because of a pregnancy. The purpose of SHS is to provide a service to the students, not alienate them. So here’s to all the pregnant ladies with sprained ankles or any other health problem: Have fun limping to an off-campus doctor, and good luck getting your health fee refunded.
Mark Lennox is the Oracle’s editor in chief and a senior majoring in mass communications.