Ashe Center’s sudden policy changes blindside students, breaches coverage

(Cody Wilson/Daily Bruin)

Getting a rug pulled from under you is pretty dangerous.

It makes one wonder, though, why UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, which oversees and provides medical care to UCLA’s students, continues to pull the rug from underneath its students.

The Ashe Center has a bad habit of implementing rapid, unannounced policy changes without informing student patients.

The center’s policies already make it extremely difficult to navigate. They make care inaccessible for students without the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, a University-provided health insurance that students can opt out of. Those same policies and procedures are impossible to access online, meaning students have no way of knowing when they change, or what they change to. And the center leaves students to fend for themselves with little to no help when it comes to understanding what care they are afforded.

All this can lead to some pretty severe setbacks in student care. For example, students such as myself who get regular injections of allergens to help build immunity, were, since fall 2016, able to bring serums and request nurses to provide injections. The Ashe Center changed the policies in fall 2018, without notifying students, refusing to give injections of patient-provided serums and also requiring them to carry two EpiPens on their person.

These policy changes can and have forced students to repeat allergy shot dosages several times, as there are rules regarding how much time can pass between allergy shots before patients have to retake previous lower-dosage injections.

It’s easy to see there are other situations where student patients could find themselves being blindsided by these kind of changes.

The issue isn’t that Ashe changes its policies. It’s that the center can and has been changing policies suddenly, without giving its patients notice or a grace period to prepare for new rules. This expectation that students will be able to quickly respond to sudden policy changes shows how truly out of touch the Ashe Center is with the student body it exists to serve.

That might not seem apparent from administrators’ point of view. John Bollard, chief of operations and chief financial officer for the Ashe Center, said the center’s policies and procedures changes are run by various committees. Those committees make recommendations to the executive committee, which is formed by eight members of the executive staff. Their recommendations then go to the executive director, who has the final say. Then policies are taken to Ashe employees for feedback, and the Student Health Advisory Committee, run by students, if the policies impact them.

But this system, which only takes student feedback at the tail end of the process, cannot possibly produce policies and procedures with students in mind. For one, SHAC, whose members are appointed by the Undergraduate Students Association Council and the Graduate Students Association, isn’t always privy to the medical concerns of the entire student body. Health care is a unique service – one that’s hard to generalize. Many students have very specific health care needs that can easily be ignored or exacerbated by Ashe’s sudden policy changes.

That’s what happened to me.

I was blindsided by Ashe’s policy changes when I returned from summer vacation. In the following months, I jumped through various hoops, trying to comply with the changes. After weeks of phone calls and escalation, Ashe finally agreed it would be unreasonable to require me to bring a new bottle of serum, after they had given me little notice or the capacity to comply. Due to there being a national shortage of EpiPens at the time, and because of the center’s inability to warn me ahead of time, my first appointment was delayed several months, and I was forced to retake four previously taken dosages.

And other students get treatment at Ashe for conditions far more severe than mine – ones where a missed appointment can lead to severe decreases in their quality of life. And the lack of grace periods means those students don’t even get a chance to mitigate these issues.

Ashe has a lot of patients, and it’s easy to see why the center might feel like it can’t possibly notify all students every time it makes changes to policies or procedures that apply to them. After all, health care involves a lot of policies, many of which could change for various reasons. But even private health care facilities make the effort to reach out to their patients and notify them of upcoming changes to the procedures for their care, and it is not too much to expect Ashe to extend that same courtesy to students.

Moreover, students seeking specific health care needs from Ashe tend to already be aware of the policies they need to navigate. The fact that even these policy-aware students are being blindsided demonstrates how unexpected Ashe’s policy changes can be, and how much of a responsibility the center – a facility specifically for students – has in informing students of changes to the procedures of their care.

The sooner Ashe can realize that, the sooner its students will stop finding themselves hitting the floor when they seek health care at UCLA.

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