New health services considered for VIU

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University students need better access to health care, according to the students' union.

Vancouver Island University students need better access to health care close to campus, says the executive director of the students’ union.

“A lot of students who go to VIU come from out of town, certainly a number of them are international,” said Michael Olson, executive director for the university students’ union. “If they are here for the long term – up to four years for a degree – it’s difficult to always use walk-in clinics, especially because of how busy walk-in clinics can be, and not having a personal connection can be troubling for people.”

According to university relations, the institution has long recognized health care for staff and students as a priority and is now considering options for new services. University spokespeople are mum on the models being looked at, the funding and location of potential health care services, claiming it’s still too early to make anything public.

But the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice – the group helping the university with a health care proposal – says the idea is to hire a nurse practitioner to lead a campus clinic and help address an under-served student population.

While the university wouldn’t comment on the potential for a nurse practitioner, the prospect of a health care clinic for students is an exciting prospect for the student union, said Olson.

The student body numbered 17,000 last year, with 30 per cent coming from other parts of B.C. or out-of-province. They are no longer in an area where they have a family doctor and walk-in clinics near campus can be “backed up for a number of hours,” making it difficult to students to work health care around class schedules, he said.

Other universities across Canada offer students on-campus medical clinics, including Thompson Rivers University and the University of Victoria. The student union would like VIU to offer similar services to provide students with more timely and convenient access close to classes and residences. There is also the potential for student-focused clinics to catch campus health trends and created targeted awareness campaigns, Olson said.

“We haven’t received a lot of specifics at this time [about] any plans … coming down the pipe, but certainly there has been increased talk about these needs and we are very excited to potentially work with the university,” he said.