Is administration talking about removing Health Services?

By Jonathan Perreira, Staff Writer

On November 7, the Student Government Association held another “Shake the Ship” event, where the students gathered to discuss campus concerns.

An important issue was touched on, but not fully understood, and that was the plan to remove and replace Health Services at the UMass Dartmouth campus.

Doctor David Milstone led the discussion and answered some questions, but it was clear not everything could be answered at that moment. What is this plan, and why is it even being considered?

The plan had its beginnings during the summer, while the student body was away. Then, members of administration met with leaders of the Southcoast Medical group.

The reasoning for this timing, according to Milstone in an e-mail correspondence, was “based on availability of both the Southcoast folks and our folks.”

The plan, as it originally follows, would be to remove Health Services to save students money from their tuition.

We reached out to Brian Towne, President of the SGA, to share his understanding. The money students would save would be $75 off the $150 charge that goes towards funding health services. In the situation that a student needs to utilize something Health Services used to provide, the student would need to travel to a designated Southcoast Medical location, whether that be a hospital, clinic, etc.

However, according to Towne’s understanding, students would likely be charged copays, and that the transportation cost is counterintuitive. The students would spend more money on transportation, or the University would save no money at all on a shuttle or personal taxi service.

The leader of this discussion has been James Sheehan, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance. He has been serving at UMass Dartmouth since 2015, but also has experience with the same role at UMASS Amherst. Reportedly, he attempted to make the same plans.

Sheehan was connected to the Health Services at that campus, as he appointed multiple executive directors. Sheehan also conducted a survey at UMass Amherst to update their Health Services mission statement.

Milstone confirmed that “UMass Amherst explored alternative options for their Health Services while Vice Chancellor Sheehan was there” and that “they did not alter their current model.”

Our campus had the possibility of posing different circumstances that could’ve saved the students and the administration money, but it is clear to administration that there are too many “gaps” for any current plan to work.

John Hoey, Assistant to the Chancellor, confirmed through an e-mail that, “there are no plans to make any changes to Health Services this academic year,” because “Chancellor Johnson, upon his arrival in July, determined that there are still too many unanswered questions related to cost and accessibility that need to be answered before such a move would be considered. He has, therefore, slowed down the process as we continue to receive valuable input from students and staff on this issue.”

The Torch requested a meeting with James Sheehan, but was met with no response. As it stands, however, the SGA and staff have the entire campus population in mind, and do not want to remove the affordable and accessible healthcare we have now.

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