Health professionals at Jacksonville State University’s Student Health Center received 4,000 visits last year.
The small facility, sandwiched between the music building and a towering dorms, has been greeting ailing members of the student body and the faculty for decades, charging little money, or in some cases none at all.
That system might soon be changed as the institution’s trustees review proposals from third-party health care providers all vying to take over the university-run facility.
A board committee is scheduled to review all seven contracts Thursday and to decide which, if any, of the proposals to recommend. A decision on the matter could come through as early as July 11, when the board convenes for its next quarterly meeting.
Some faculty members say they’ve been caught off guard by the proposed changes, which were first discussed at the board’s spring meeting. They were discussed with the faculty members only days before.
“They are doing this as quickly as possible while the students are all gone, while the faculty are scattered,” said Paul Beezley, an associate professor who recently ended a term as president of the faculty senate. “This isn’t a tweaking of student health, it’s a fundamental change and none of the stakeholders have been consulted.”
Under Beezley’s direction, the faculty senate passed a resolution at its last meeting that “demands” that student health not be changed this year, and that no changes take place until students are consulted. It also asks that all potential conflicts of interest be disclosed and that all proposals include a plan “to fulfill the unique public health and educational mission of student health service.”
The proposals have some JSU coaches asking questions too. That’s because the proposals each have two components, one that would outsource health services for the general student population, and one that would change the health services for athletes.
Currently, JSU’s student athletes are treated by Andrews Sports Medicine of Birmingham. No JSU officials who spoke for this story reported any grievances with the Andrews group, which is widely considered a leader in its field.
“The majority of the coaches are very happy with our student athletes’ care. I think we have the best,” said Jana McGinnis, JSU’s head softball coach. “From a coach’s standpoint I think that it’s a big benefit for us.”
McGinnis also said that the partnership has served as a recruiting tool for JSU athletics, adding that many of the coaches don’t know why the board is accepting proposals for the change.
Jim Skidmore, the associate director for sports medicine, has been working at JSU for 37 years. He said the Andrews relationship dates back to 1989 and said the university’s athletes have received excellent continuity of care since that time.
“We have access to the finest orthopedic care that’s available and they’ve done everything they can to support our program,” Skidmore said. “They’re a world-class group.”
The board’s chairman, Jim Bennett, said the trustees will review all the proposals to determine which, if any, will benefit the university’s students and athletes. He said that competition in the medical field could bring about better service for students and that, in time, the faculty members and students will understand.
“I think if a new contract is approved they will understand the reasons why, and they will be positive ones,” Bennett said. “We want to provide the best services possible in both of these areas.”
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.