New Partnership Sparks Change for Wittenberg Health Center

Students at Wittenberg received an email announcement late January from Dean of students Casey Gill concerning a new partnership with Community Mercy Health Partners (CMHP) to expand the health services offered on campus.

Health centerThe partnership constitutes a satellite office at Wittenberg connected to Springfield North Family Medicine under Bernadette de Guzman, MD, MPH. For students, this means the hours of operation will be expanded to five days a week, and that the Health Center now directly submits claims to a student’s health care insurance provider instead of paying a service charge that would require independent student submission.

For Erin Yontz, MS, CRNP, “The transition seemed rather quick and didn’t make sense to do in the middle of a semester.” Yontz, one of two nurses who were retained in the new expansion process, said there were “a lot of processes left up in the air,” calling many of the upcoming weeks ahead “a work in progress as we move forward with all new personnel.”

Gill’s Jan. 29 email announced the new collaboration would begin operating as of Feb. 1. At presstime however, the Health Center voicemail still labeled the Health Center’s hours as Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no mention made of CMHP’s extended resources.

Nurses Linda Sauers and Judy Streibel were both terminated as a result of the new change, leaving Yontz and Director of Counseling Center Linda Lauffenberger as the two remaining certified nurse practitioners to “provide day to day oversight for on-campus diagnoses, treatment and prescription services for common illness and injuries as employees of Community Mercy Health Partners,” Gill’s email read.

Both Sauers and Streibel were “both very competent and familiar faces for students who utilized clinic services,” said Yontz, labeling their termination “abrupt.”

Mark DeVilbiss, associate dean for residence life, said the partnership “has been under development for a long time. The announcement came recently, but the negotiations have been going on for quite a long time.”

Both Yontz and DeVilbiss are excited about the partnership’s opportunity to provide further service to students with both extended hours and expanded access to providers. However, Yontz finds it problematic that “the cash cost of a clinic may be prohibitive for students who do not have health insurance,” and “stock medications will no longer be available in the clinic [which] may be a barrier for students without transportation to get to a pharmacy to have a prescription filled,” she said.

According to DeVilbiss, “we do not have transportation to offer at this time.” Students without insurance, though, may have the option of paying a flat fee for their visit. However, such a cost is dependent on the nature of their visit, DeVilbiss noted.

Such a flat fee may offer some relief to students whom Yontz is concerned may “worry about their parents receiving their explanation of benefits when visits are filed to their insurance, depending on the medical nature of their visit,” she said.

Senior Brenna Doherty visits the health center bi-weekly for an immunotherapy shot (shots meant to change her immune system to get rid of allergies); the new change, she’s hoping, will allow her to use her family insurance that will then cover her frequent appointments.

“Going to the health center was always such a hassle previously, because I get multiple shots; I get charged $50 for every visit,” Doherty said. She received a call last Friday, and the center is “still not sure how they’re going to be billing us,” Doherty said.

Other students on campus expressed concern that Mercy Health’s Catholic affiliation may conflict with the Health Center’s ability to offer contraception services. However, according to DeVilbiss:

“We will be offering contraceptives like we always have, outside of our new health center partnership, in keeping with our commitment to students’ health and well-being.”

For more questions on the recent expansion or other health-related needs, call 937-327-7806.