Vern residents don’t have quick access to medical care, students say

Media Credit: Gabrielle Rhoads | Hatchet Photographer

Melissa Schwab, a freshman living in Somers Hall, said she does not have adequate access to medical services as a resident of the Mount Vernon Campus.

When freshman Maryam Ahmed and her roommate woke up with colds late at night on the Mount Vernon Campus last month, Ahmed had three options.

She could either walk in the rain for about 30 minutes to the closest Safeway to buy medicine, wait for the Mount Vernon Express to head to Foggy Bottom or take an Uber to a nearby CVS. Without a nearby facility on the Vern to quickly buy medicine and fall back asleep, the two eventually decided to take a $20 Uber to the nearest open CVS in Georgetown.

“There’s a need for more amenities, so if we had something like a pharmacy or we did have some type of clinic here, we would be able to get access to that kind of stuff without having to make a 20-minute commute to Foggy,” she said.

Ahmed is one of more than 10 students who lives or has lived on the Vern and said they did not have access to medical resources while sick or during a medical emergency because the campus does not have a nearby, 24-hour medical care facility or pharmacy. They said long wait times for University medical services and distant access to nearby care clinics prevent them from receiving quick medical attention.

In interviews, students said they’ve fainted, caught colds and cut themselves while cooking, prompting them to pay for Uber rides to nearby clinics, walk more than one mile to a pharmacy or call 911.

The complaints come on the heels of a newly released agenda from Student Association President Ashley Le, who said she will prioritize establishing an urgent care clinic on the Vern.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said officials have not heard “direct complaints” about not being able to receive urgent care on the Vern. She said the GW Police Department calls EMeRG for transport to the GW Hospital when students are injured on the Vern, and students are sent to Sibley Hospital – the closest to the Vern – if D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services receive the first call.

Students also have “full access” to the Colonial Health Center for mental health and other medical services and a CVS minute clinic on MacArthur Boulevard, which is located near the Vern, Csellar said.

“We look forward to learning more about the SA’s ideas about medical services at Mount Vernon Campus,” she said in an email.

She added that the Vern’s weekly student newsletter includes information about services available to the campus’ residents, including “helpful reminders about how to access medical care.”

Natania JonesMitchell, a freshman living in Somers Hall, said she fainted last week during a class in Ames Hall, the main academic building on the Vern. The roughly 20 minutes she had to wait for EMeRG to pick her up was “frankly a little unacceptable,” she said.

JonesMitchell said the “only thing” she could do while waiting for EMeRG was talk to GWPD officers instead of receiving immediate medical attention. EMeRG service is available from Thursday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. for students living on the Vern.

“Had it been a serious illness or something like that, something could have happened,” JonesMitchell said. “When it comes to illnesses, time is of the essence.”

Melissa Schwab, a freshman living in Somers Hall, said she had a poison ivy rash that covered her arms with blisters last month, which she obtained after working in a garden during Freshman Day of Service.

Schwab said she went to a CVS clinic on MacArthur Boulevard, which students can walk to from the Vern, instead of having to take the Vex and pay $30 for a consultation or prescription from the CHC.

“I knew I had poison ivy, and I knew if I could go to an emergency clinic, I could get treatment,” Schwab said. “I’d never been to the CHC and I don’t really know what they can do.”

Schwab said she was surprised when she moved into school in the fall and noticed there wasn’t an urgent care clinic or available medical services on the Vern. She said because students on the Vern live far from Foggy Bottom, it is difficult for them to have access to medical services like EMeRG.

“We live on an entirely separate campus,” she said. “We have no close medical services, that’s not really an option for us because we live so far away.”

Le, the SA president who said she will prioritize adding an urgent care clinic on the Vern, said building an urgent care clinic is a step toward ensuring that the Vern offers the same services available on the Foggy Bottom Campus. On the Vern, the traffic to travel between campuses and longer wait times to ride the Vex on the weekend could prevent students from promptly receiving care, she said.

“Having an urgent care clinic on the Vern would be the next step that we have to take to make sure the Vern is fully integrated and fully equipped to take care of our students and to be a home for our students,” Le said.

Le said that while beginning a conversation about establishing an urgent care clinic is a priority, building a clinic will not be accomplished by the end of the academic year because the CHC still needs to find a permanent director.

“This isn’t something that the Student Association can just start,” she said. “We have to partner with the Colonial Health Center to figure out what would be the best way to do it.”

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