“Trying to move forward”

Birkam Health Center responds to student complaints

On March 16, the Torch ran a story featuring several anonymous Ferris students detailing negative experiences that they had had at Ferris’ Birkam Health Center.

There were a variety of issues brought to light by the students interviewed initially, but following the original story many students and alumni responded via Facebook, Yik Yak and on the Torch web page.

One of the most common complaints seemed to be pertain to billing and insurance issues.

“They assured me it was only a $35 copay,” commented Rachael Bach on the Torch Facebook page. “Six weeks later I get a $500 bill from spectrum hospital for labs. And then three weeks later another $105 bill from Birkam. That’s money I don’t have. So much for $35. I’ll never go back.”

The Director of Student Affairs Budget Management, and Acting Director of Birkam Health Center, Deanna Goldthwait provided some insight into why that is such a commonly occurring issue.

“We’ve actually been working very closely in the last few weeks with the representative at Spectrum’s lab to try and mitigate any issues there,” said Goldthwait. “Just to make sure that what we tell them that they’re going to be charged from spectrum is what they get charged, because I know we had heard that that was an issue.”

Another issue that continually appeared in student accounts was the medical staff being insensitive and not listening to what they, the students, were trying to say.

“I went there my sophomore year for treatment for an anxiety disorder,” said a commenter on the Torch webpage going by the username Jesus Smith. “The doctor told me all I needed to do was incorporate more vitamin c in my diet and to grow up. Great place. Very professional.”

Goldthwait acknowledged that there have been issues in the past and is hopeful that the new doctor, Peter S. VanDeMark, as well as a change in leadership with a new director on the horizon, will bring about a positive change.

“I really believe that my goal for the new director coming in is to do some major marketing campaigns and really bring the students in to get a positive experience,” said Goldthwait. “Because we do know that there’s always a reputation that we’re trying to get around and improve on.

Goldthwait also clarified that the $47 fee included in each student’s tuition is what keeps the doors open, providing roughly 70% of the center’s revenue, as opposed to what patients pay when they visit.

Birkam Health Center has seen more than 3,300 patients this academic year to date, and from summer 2014 through spring 2015 provided over 10,000 patient visits.

“The thing I really want to focus on is that we are trying to move forward from the past and the way things have been,” said Goldthwait.