The Student Health Centre at the University of Limerick will be charging for medical services from September. It currently offers services free of charge to registered UL students.
The decision to implement charges comes from the university executive and follows similar decisions made at UCD, DCU, NUIM and TCD.
Professor Paul McCutcheon, vice-president and registrar of UL stated that the medical centre was “running deficits” year on year and the executive has decided to seek a “student contribution” for medical services.
He added that this change stems from “increased demand” in the health centre and is partially due to a “change in student requirements”.
Professor McCutcheon said: “We want to make the medical service sustainable. It’s not sustainable under the current scheme as we are running deficits.
“We’re aware that the students have medical needs and we want to provide a reasonable level of service that we can sustain into the future. The only way this can be done is by putting in charges for medical consultation.”
The charges, he said, will be “considerably less” than those applying at a GP.
The charges for the medical centre will be as follows: €25 to see a doctor, €10 to see a nurse, €25 for a psychiatric consultation, €40 for physio, €10 for the STD clinic and €10 for contraceptive advice.
The university will continue to partially subsidise the cost of the centre.
ULSU education officer Aoife Kenny said that the current economic climate was partially responsible for the change and that “the days of getting stuff for free are well gone by”.
But she added: “It’s still cheaper than you’ll get in Castletroy or in the city centre.”
With the introduction of fees, it is expected that UL students will see a complete systems upgrade in the health centre.
Essential services such as medical, physio and sexual health will be retained with improvements being made in relation to waiting times and opening hours.
Students in possession of a medical card will still have to pay for health centre services, but can claim back this money from their local health board. Students who have health insurance may also claim back the cost of their visit.
Students’ Union president Derek Daly called the move “unfortunate, but necessary”. He said the situation is a “manifestation of the unsustainability and underfunding of the third-level sector in Ireland. I expect that students will demand much more of the health centre now that they are directly contributing toward its upkeep”.
The UL Student Health Centre services between 9,000 and 12,000 students per academic year.
*Kelly O’Brien is a journalism student at the University of Limerick