Deans in the dark: Student Health Services makes unilateral decision to suspend appointments

The Tranquada Center, a white building with a red roof.
Student Health Services is currently not scheduling non-urgent appointments due to a severe staff shortage. (Jojo Sanders • The Student Life)

When Student Health Services decided to suspend routine medical appointments Sept. 24, student deans across the 5Cs found themselves in the same boat as students: completely unaware. 

Or at least, that’s what the consortium says now. Last week, The Claremont Colleges Services said deans were involved in “all the changes to the services being provided at SHS.”

Either way, students remained without formal notice from their respective colleges for at least a week.

“SHS is a critical part of maintaining students’ health on campus, and I think it’s problematic that students weren’t informed until it was far too late,” Calla Li PO ’22 said.

Last week, a statement on the SHS website announced the center would be temporarily suspending scheduling routine appointments — including physicals, women’s health exams, vaccinations, tuberculosis tests and sexually transmitted infection testing — due to a “critical” shortage of registered nurses and medical providers.

TCCS Vice President for Student Affairs Janet Smith Dickerson and TCCS spokesperson Colin Tudor said Thursday that SHS and TCCS personnel unilaterally made the decision to suspend routine appointments, without consulting student deans. 

“Upon review, we believe a delay in notification to the college deans created a delay in notification of students at the colleges. We regret this and the confusion it caused,” Tudor said in an email to TSL.

Consultation with student deans occurred only after the decision to suspend routine services was made, according to Pomona College Dean of Students Avis Hinkson. 

“The schools are in a wealthy situation, so hire the right people and the right amount of people,” she added. “As a parent, you like to know that the safety of your kid is taken care of, it’s a priority and that it’s staffed appropriately.”  – Simona Zanetti, Pomona Parent  

Tudor would not say when the notification about suspension of normal service was posted online, nor when student deans across the 5Cs were notified. Pomona, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College and Scripps College did not comment on when their deans found out about the suspension.

After being informed, student deans alerted students from Pitzer, CMC, HMC and Scripps to the suspension Oct. 3, a day after TSL published a story about the suspension of appointments. 

Pomona did not make a school-wide announcement until this Thursday, a day after TSL asked Hinkson why a school-wide email had not yet been sent. 

I apologize for not providing this information sooner and for any confusion you may have experienced,” Hinkson wrote in her email to Pomona students.

SHS is attempting to counter staff shortages by hiring more registered nurses. A new hire underwent training Thursday, according to Dickerson.

Students and parents alike voiced their frustration at the lack of timely communication from administrators.

Clarissa De La Garza PO ’22 attempted to schedule an appointment at SHS for her sinus infection Oct. 2, over a week after SHS decided to temporarily suspend appointments. 

At the time, De La Garza was unaware of the change, not having received an email nor read the statement on the TCCS website. Finding that she was unable to book an appointment online, she assumed all appointments were full and postponed scheduling hers until the next day.

When she woke up the next day, her symptoms were worse. Again, she tried to schedule an appointment to no avail. She called SHS, and was eventually told to go to Claremont Urgent Care, paying for her transportation there and back herself. De La Garza was only informed of the temporary suspension when she was given the address of the urgent care facility.

“In the moment it was frustrating because I was just trying to book an appointment to see a professional and get the proper medication, and was not expecting to have to go through all that,” De La Garza said. “Being informed about what is going on around campus is important, especially for students who do not have the immediate funds to seek service somewhere off campus.”

Simona Zanetti, the parent of a current Pomona student, said she was dismayed that she heard about the issues when she saw TSL’s story on Facebook.

“You can’t only be proud of excellence and low acceptance rates,” Zanetti said. “You have to provide a full package, and that includes the ability to provide an environment where kids and young adults can feel safe and assisted if needed.”

“The schools are in a wealthy situation, so hire the right people and the right amount of people,” she added. “As a parent, you like to know that the safety of your kid is taken care of, it’s a priority and that it’s staffed appropriately.” 

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