University clinics need to be strengthened.
University clinics are to students as important as community clinics and hospitals are to the society at large. The university clinics are specifically aimed at assisting the university community pertaining to health matters which are of critical significance in the individuals’ and collective wellbeing of the university community, particularly students.
Students are experiencing physical, emotional and social problems which ought to be given attention by the universities, and the role of the clinics is of great importance in this regard. Our educational institutions have got a challenge of physically challenged and chronically ill students who are forever in demand of health services. Of course, now and then, other many students would need help that should be availed to them by the institutional clinics. This task is important for it speaks directly to the need for quality student services which have a serious bearing on the value of student life at campuses.
The so called disabled students should be assisted by improving the university infrastructure (e.g. building ramps, accommodating residences, toilets etc), provision of necessary equipment and stationary (e.g. wheelchairs, brail, computers etc) and other necessities. The students that live with chronic disorders like epilepsy and diseases such as diabetes should not leave campus to get medication. They have to get their medication from the campus clinics to convenience them and ensure that they enjoy their student life. The education on how to react and be helpful to the physically challenged and students with disorders is the duty of both students and clinics. Any student should have an idea of what to do when an epileptic student has a seizure or what food is good for a diabetic, for an example. That can be achieved through effective awareness campaigns by students and campus clinics.
It is unfortunate that clinics at tertiary institutions of learning are experiencing the same problems that are experienced by community clinics, such as the following: shortage of staff; poor services; lack of medication; absence or shortage of necessary health equipment and many more. These challenges affect the student populace negatively and thus, they ought to be tackled with the participation of students as an integral part of the university. This is where the health and science students come in.
Health students are required, as part of their curriculum, to work in the real health institutions to gain both competence and experience in their field of study. Why are these students placed only at hospitals and clinics outside of the university when there is a shortage of staff at their own and neighbouring campuses? The authorities should place health students at university clinics in order to alleviate the situation of the shortage of health personnel at campus clinics. Social work and psychology students should also be given a chance to gain experience by being afforded the opportunity to partake in providing counselling to patients at campus clinics. For instance, social work and psychology students can play a crucial role in HIV/AIDS testing by providing counselling to staff and students population.
One may argue that this will alienate students at campuses from going to these clinics for they will be uncomfortable with exposing their private matters to their peers who happen to be students. This can be prevented by deploying health students to institutions they do not belong to so that they interact with different health clientele. This will be both advantageous to the health students and student patients for it will assist the health student to interact with students from other institutions; the student patient will be comfortable being assisted by health personnel that is not from his/her circle since many, if not most patients, prefer a health professional they do not know to that which they know when it comes to sensitive illnesses or problems. The other simple issues can be left to Peer Educators and other valuable groups.
Clinics should be involved in both preventive and curative part of health so as to guarantee that the impact made is significant. This calls for the deployment of not only nursing and medicine students, but health promoters who would, together with other relevant structures, give necessary attention to the constant awareness campaigns which are critical in educating the masses. This would help in the prevention of illness for knowledge is power. However important awareness campaigns maybe, we have learnt from experience that they are not the sole answer to the prevention of illness. It is therefore important to have a multi faceted approach that will combine different expertise available in related health and science fraternities. Therefore, Analytical Chemistry and Biomedical Technology students, under professional supervision, should be involved in doing tests which require specific scientific knowledge. This can also serve as practical training.
Students join the tertiary institutions with little, if any, experience of independence. This renders them vulnerable to both positive and negative influences. Among these influences are peer pressure, drugs and alcohol which usually than not lead them to erroneous decision making as their judgement is clouded. Many of these students seek to blend well in the new setting of the university and, therefore, can be lured easily by the unscrupulous characters found at institutions of higher learning. This calls upon the universities, with the assistance of relevant bodies and campus clinics to have programmes to help new students in their transition to student life at university. This is important, for it is out of the decisions made early in university life that many get trapped in the stranglehold of alcohol, drugs and bad company. There is no doubt that such circumstances have a long term detrimental effects on the individual, family and loved ones which will undeniably require the intervention of the health fraternity at one time or another.
The health of those who excessively use intoxicating substances like alcohol and drugs is at risk for these substances lead them to consenting to unprotected sex or to being susceptible to rape which can lead them to contamination by Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s). STI’s are not the only possibility. The other problem is that intoxicated people have a propensity to partake in fights or behave carelessly and thus they are prone to injury and, unfortunately, death. When they are injured they require the help of the healthcare institutions.
The consumption of alcohol has negative social consequences. The reason for this is that people under the demonic spell of drugs and peer pressure are putting not only their physical health, but also psychological health at risk. The health problems, both physical and psychological, affect families and loved ones alike and, ultimately, the community. Once it is a community problem, it ceases to be just a health issue but a social predicament.
The other matter that has to be given necessary attention is cohabitation. We need to dissuade students from cohabitation for when one cohabitates, one tends to be lenient in sexual engagements with one’s partner. Cohabitation contributes to the high pregnancy rate at our institutions. This is not to say that students who do not cohabitate do not fall pregnant or behave sloppily in their sexual encounters. We need to provide advice and counselling on family and relationship matters to couples, whether they cohabitate or not, without any prejudice or undue judgement from campus clinic staff and assistants. Professional and ethical staff is needed. Our triumph on the scouge of teenage pregnancy and STIs will bear positive fruits in a long term, but we have to create a trusting relationship between the clinics and the students first.
Cooperative and programmatic relationship between the campus clinics, SRCs and students’ organisations such as South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA), DENOSA Learner Movement, students political and religious organisations (SASCO, PASMA, SCO, METHSOC etc) and other stakeholders (lecturers, NEHAWU, staff etc) is crucial. We all need to ensure that the students are served excellently and get the service they surely deserve. Collective effort is best to individual effort. Collaboration is what will take the campus clinics from Panado dispensers to makoya clinics.
We therefore have a task to make it our duty as student activists and leaders to persuade our universities and government to ensure that campus clinics are not just equal, but greater than the task of adequately responding to health problems at institutions of learning. However, we need to take this struggle beyond the campus to our communities for we exist as a connection of a circuit of society.
Forward with quality healthcare for students!!
BY Dinileminyanya Sandile Latha [ Chairperson of SASCO Border branch)