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May 29, 2017 | by  | in News Splash | [ssba]

Further Concerns with Student Health and Counselling

Following two articles published in Salient (Issue 09 and Issue 10) regarding Student Health and Counselling, we received a number of responses from students who were willing to share their experiences of the services.


In 2015, Student Health and Counselling conducted 41,556 consultations, and recorded a total of ten complaints from students. In 2016, 40,944 consultations were held, with a total of 14 complaints from students. The complaints fell into categories of concerns about delay, clinical care, and service.

These numbers suggest widespread student satisfaction with Student Health and Counselling.

A student, who reached out to Salient following the publication of last week’s article, reflected on multiple consultations at Student Health as being “very positive.”

“Staff are wonderful and caring, and I would absolutely recommend the Student Health Service without hesitation.”

Despite a low percentage of official complaints, a number of other students who reached out to Salient reported negative experiences and were unaware of the official complaint mechanisms being available.

One fifth year student had a consultation with a GP in 2015 who “patronisingly” told her she should not be getting a repeat contraceptive prescription. “After talking to the people around me I realised a few friends had the same experience. Because I wasn’t familiar with the scary university system, I just requested there be a note put on my file to never see that doctor again.”

In 2016, another student “was made to feel extremely uncomfortable when asking for a [contraceptive] pill prescription to the point that [they] cried, and then were hurriedly given one.” The student did not lay a formal complaint.

A third student, who had informed Gerard Hoffman, the Head of Student Counselling, of their experience, described a negative ongoing relationship with Student Health. On three separate occasions between 2015 and 2016 the student was told to “come back tomorrow” when they presented at Student Health’s reception feeling suicidal.

“I felt like a drowning man being told to choose to swim.”

The inadequacy of support contributed to the this student not being accepted into an academic course in 2017, partly because the course coordinator viewed them as a danger to themselves. They reflected,  “I can’t help but feel I am being punished for being sick.”

“It took a lot of arguing but I eventually got a long-term counsellor. Things are going okay. The counsellor is not nearly as good as Evolve’s, but it’s better than nothing — and it’s either this or nothing.”

This student had a relationship with the Evolve counselling services in 2016, but had utilised the maximum six sessions available under this service.

Salient reached out to Student Health and Counselling to give them the opportunity to respond to these experiences, but they were unwilling to discuss individual student experiences with Salient.

“We are concerned to hear about any instances where students have not been satisfied with their experience of our services and welcome any opportunity to hear from them and discuss issues they would like to raise. However, it would not be appropriate for university staff to meet with a Salient reporter to discuss individual students and their experiences with Student Counselling and Student Health.”

A fourth student, reflecting on the experiences of their friend, said: “I don’t think they realised how badly they had been treated until repeating the story back to others and seeing how shocked we were. […] They may have not felt as if they were in a position to complain. If they had, it would do nothing to fix the fact that [they] did not want to approach VUW health services ever again, and haven’t thus far.”

VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin told Salient that VUWSA had not received complaints about Student Health of such a serious nature, but encouraged students who did want to complain to utilise VUWSA’s Advocacy Service to do so.

“The staff [from Student Health] who consult with us throughout the year work to make sure students have the best possible services. However, the student experiences raised in the article are extremely concerning and we will be initiating a discussion with the service to find out more.”


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