UNH opens health clinic for faculty, staff


CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The University of New Hampshire opened a new health clinic Monday aimed at saving money and providing faculty and staff with more convenient options for their medical needs.

The clinic, located within the university's student health building in Durham, will serve more as an urgent care facility than a primary care office.

It will be open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the academic year and will provide treatment for ailments such as ear and sinus infections, sprained ankles and other injuries.

Services include a pharmacy, X-rays and laboratory testing. Officials expect the latter to provide the most immediate savings, given that it costs about $15 for a comprehensive lab workup done by an independent lab versus $90-$150 at local hospitals.

Those savings are critical at a time when the university system is spending $66 million on health care benefits this year, with the Durham campus accounting for about $46 million of that total. And those costs have been rising 7-10 percent per year, said Amy Schwartz, the university system's director of health care cost containment.

"It's really unsustainable, so we started thinking about what sorts of things can we do that meet the needs of employees but also as employers to control the health care costs," she said. "We have a thriving health service, we serve 12,000 students very successfully, and the thought was, let's take some of our internal resources and see if indeed we can build more efficiently and effectively than we can buy."

The new clinic, which has its own waiting area and eventually will have a separate entrance, is staffed by workers from student health services for now, but new staff could be added if needed. If it turns out faculty and staff don't use it much, it could be closed without the university system having spent a lot of money, Schwartz said. But she expects it to be a success, saying workers already have expressed interest.

"We can improve productivity because people don't have to leave campus and spend half the day trying to get an appointment, and then get back on campus," she said. "It makes sense to try it."

UNH isn't alone in opening such a clinic. The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources surveyed 415 institutions last year and found that about a quarter of them provide on-campus medical services to faculty and staff.

Kevin Charles, executive director of UNH Health Services, said it cost about $200,000 to build the new clinic, and he expects it to be self-sustaining in less than three years. Just one patient visited the clinic on its opening day, but many other faculty and staff members stopped by with questions, he said.

Staff will spend the next few months fine tuning the clinic's operations, with a grand opening set for next fall.