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UNH staff get its own health clinic

Union Leader Correspondent

February 27. 2012 10:47PM

DURHAM - A new health clinic opened quietly yesterday to all University System of New Hampshire employees.

The clinic is part of the university system's pursuit of health care savings since becoming a self-funded health insurance program at the beginning of the year.

The clinic allows employees to get basic medical care, X-rays, and routine lab tests without leaving campus, and saves the university money by cutting down on employee health care costs.

'Medical costs continue to rise on average 8-10 percent a year,' Dick Cannon, vice-president of finance and administration for UNH, said. 'That just isn't sustainable when we're spending nearly $50 million a year on medical benefits at UNH alone. It is imperative that we find new and innovative ways to cut costs and piloting an on-campus employee clinic is one step in that process.'

Kevin Charles, executive director of UNH Health Services, said they are not breaking any ground with the employee clinic.

According to a 2011 College and University Professional Association Human Resources survey, about a quarter of the 415 responding institutions provide on-campus medical services to faculty and staff.

But few offer it as a cost containment tool, which is how the idea first came up here a couple of years ago.

Last year, a committee surveyed faculty and staff about their needs, and more recently, about 600-feet of storage space at Health Services was converted into two exam rooms, a check-in and waiting area and a rest room, to make the employee clinic possible.

Charles said the clinic is not meant to be a replacement for primary care, but is more an urgent care facility that will be able to treat things like ear and sinus infections, lower back pain and sprains, rashes, insect bites and headaches.

No referral from a primary care physician is necessary for employees on Harvard Pilgrim insurance, the university's health care plan, Charles said.

In addition the clinic offers lab work, radiology and a pharmacy.

The university expects to see immediate savings in laboratory tests, which Charles said can be much more costly in a hospital setting.

'Odds are, a lab test here is going to cost less than in a hospital lab, almost across the board,' Charles said.

The employee clinic has its own space, separate from students, and will have a separate entrance once the new business college is complete. For now, the clinic will be open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the academic year.

Faculty and staff will soon be able to schedule appointments online, often for the same day and reserved parking is also available for patients at the clinic.

He said the idea is that not only will employees benefit, but the university system health plan will be a big beneficiary of the cost savings from having the on-campus clinic.

'If you can have things done here at a lower cost, it should at least lower the increases that have been happening,' Charles said. 'It is one piece in terms of the large perspective of cost containment.'

The employee clinic's 'grand opening' will be in the fall and will reflect any 'fine tuning' done to address additional employee needs, Charles said.

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