Health and Wellness: Updates

Rising student concerns have called into question the student body’s access to urgent care in medical emergencies and the shortcomings of Health and Wellness in that regard.

Oct 14, 2017

The NYU Abu Dhabi Health and Wellness Center was established to provide a comprehensive array of medical and wellness services to the student body. As a fully accredited healthcare facility, Health and Wellness aims to improve both the physical and mental health of the NYUAD community, through medical treatment, counseling and nutrition services, sports medicine and prophylactic treatment for travel-related illnesses. However, rising student concerns have called into question the student body’s access to urgent care in medical emergencies and the shortcomings of Health and Wellness in that regard.
Since the university’s move to the Saadiyat campus, the need for an on-campus center to serve student health concerns has become increasingly important. A growing student body combined with the existing physical distance of the campus from hospitals and service providers in Abu Dhabi have demanded an increasingly comprehensive Health and Wellness Center. The Center must also meet the changing demands of students and better address intersections between medical needs and the UAE’s legal framework.
“As the student body has grown from a few hundred to now over 1,200, Health and Wellness has grown and changed to better serve the student body,” said Dean of Students Kyle Farley, on behalf of Health and Wellness. “We have expanded our staff to accommodate the larger volume, reduce waiting time and improve access to same-day appointments [and we have] multidisciplinary teams consisting of medical, mental health and dietetic providers.”
In recent years, a dietitian was hired to address increasing concerns about nutrition on campus, and dental coverage was added to the student health insurance plan offered in the UAE. In fall 2016 the opening hours of Health and Wellness were extended from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays.
Nevertheless, a significant portion of the services that are offered are preventative measures — such as vaccinations or flu shots — or health education. According to Dean Farley, Health and Wellness places emphasis on cultural competence.
“[We prioritize] providing culturally appropriate healthcare to our diverse student body, but also practicing adolescent medicine within the medico-legal framework of the UAE,” said Dean Farley. “A large component of this is to educate students on staying safe and understanding UAE laws and expectations.”
Health and Wellness works closely with the Health Promotion Office and other Campus Life departments to offer educational programs and workshops focused on sexual health, alcohol and nutrition. An initiative in collaboration with the Student Government, for example, seeks to provide free menstrual hygiene products on campus. Collaborations with the Office of Community Outreach, including the ongoing Breast Cancer Awareness month, have allowed students to engage with health education outside campus. Student groups like Anchorage and REACH have even offered peer-led workshops and counseling to address student hesitation to contact Health and Wellness about sensitive issues.
While the provision of preventative, wellness and non-urgent medical services has improved and expanded, the continuing limitations of the on-campus Health and Wellness Center lie in its inability to tackle certain medical emergencies and student concerns about possible legal implications.
During weekends and late hours of the night, student access to medical advice and services is limited to the 24/7 After Hours Nurse Advice Line, Public Safety and the Abu Dhabi Emergency Ambulance Service. In more ambiguous situations, in which it is hard to determine the level of emergency, students often speak to the nurse on call before calling an ambulance. Student health insurance covers treatment at several — but not all — facilities and hospitals in the city of Abu Dhabi, and when an ambulance is called, the paramedics ultimately decide its destination. For this reason, students are often deterred from calling 999 unless they can be sure that medical treatment will be received within the insurance coverage network.
The After Hours Nurse Advice Line may also reroute calls to nurses at NYU New York, who have limited information about the healthcare system in the UAE and facilities at which students can receive urgent treatment.
“A friend and I were delayed for an hour while trying to call the [After Hours Nurse Advice Line] before being re-routed to a [nurse in New York] who said she [didn’t] know how to help students in Abu Dhabi,” wrote Reema Kaiali, Class of 2020.
Adham Chakohi, Class of 2019, shared a similar experience in a medical emergency. “It took us a few hours of talking to the nurse on call and Public Safety until they just told us [to] call an ambulance. We're not medical professionals, and sometimes it's difficult to tell if someone needs an ambulance right away,” said Chakohi.
“If someone needs emergency medical attention and the nurse on call is called, it adds a lot of time on top of how long it takes for the ambulance to get to NYUAD or for that person to get to the hospital. Considering our location [is] far away from any hospital, we need a 24/7 Health and Wellness Center,” he said, adding that in another situation, he was given inaccurate information about hospitals and their hours of operation by a nurse in New York.
Other students have echoed calls for Health and Wellness to extend its opening hours to later in the night and over the weekend. Although Health and Wellness may not have the equipment or facilities to provide urgent care, the availability of an expert in-person opinion or even an on-campus ambulance, some argue, could reduce crucial delays in students receiving the appropriate medical attention and treatment, and prevent the unnecessary involvement of third parties.
Responding to criticism, Dean Farley discussed the logistical limitations that prevent Health and Wellness from currently offering 24-hour services.
“As the student body grows, we hope to also grow our staff and be able to further expand hours. Of course, this is not just up to the healthcare team, but [also] depends on manpower and budget availability,” said Dean Farley.
Farley reaffirmed that students have access to 24/7 quality care through hospitals covered by the student health insurance plan, and that an emergency room would be the most appropriate place to receive urgent medical care, if not the most convenient.
“That being said,” he added, “we are here to support student needs and will reassess our staffing and opening hours on a regular basis.”
At the time of writing the Student Health Advisory Committee was planning to release a survey this week to further assess students' experiences with the After Hours Nurse Advice Line.
Priyanka Lakhiani is Features Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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