The University of Oregon Health Center is closed during the first week of the new school year due to renovations. (Maddie Knight/Emerald)

The University of Oregon’s Health Center opened its 22,000 square foot expansion on Monday, Sept. 30. The university originally planned to open the expansion on Oct. 7.  

“We thought it would be better to try to move before the students came back in full force,”  said Debra Beck, executive director of the University Health Center. “It is ahead of schedule and that was intentional just so we could be up and running completely for the students.”

The Health Center has a task list of final items to complete, like some stray wires hanging from the ceiling to tuck away and a staircase that will be painted over winter break when it can be closed off for a few days. All those are jobs that can be completed after opening the new expansion.  

Beck said the first week would be focused on “urgent” and “same-day” care. Appointments for routine care are available starting Monday, Oct. 7. Students can schedule appointments online using the myUOHealth student portal. 

According to Deb Beck’s assistant, Caera Wilson, in 2018 the Health Center had over 77,000 visits across all of their services in their existing 15,000 square foot facility. The expansion, which UO broke ground on in 2018, will more than double the size of the Health Center. 

The university’s 10 year Capital Plan, last updated in December 2018, details major construction, renovation and other infrastructure projects in the works or on the horizon. The plan cited exceeded capacity and an “acute shortage of clinical space” as reasons for the project.

Renovations will continue in the existing space, which remains open, while the Health Center adds to and expands the services currently offered. Beck says the plan is to improve quality of care and increase coordination between clinics.

“We do highly encourage students to see the same clinical team that they’ve seen in the past for continuity of care,” Beck said. 

Eoghan Gormley, a new graduate employee at the UO, planned to begin using the Health Center’s services as soon as he could. 

“When I was finally able to use university resources after my contract started, it was closed,” Gormley said. He said the graduate employee insurance he receives covers 100% of most costs at the Health Center, so he was frustrated by having to pay a fee for off-campus care.   

When scheduling an appointment or waiting for care isn’t possible, students have other options. The Health Center runs an after-hours nurse advice line

“There is no fee for the nurse line. Those calls are all free for students, so any medical advice is free that way,” Beck said. The nurses can help students determine what level of care they need, such as visiting an urgent care or emergency room.

“You’re likely to get seen more quickly in urgent care than in an emergency room. Our throughput is about an hour in getting you through the clinic. And the cost is typically lower going to urgent care than to the emergency room,” said Bill Clendenen, CEO of Nova Health. Nova Health has an urgent care center on 13th and Patterson, one block away from the emergency room at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Hilyard. 

Expanding urgent care facilities is on the horizon for the Health Center as well.

“As we renovate spaces that were vacated,” Beck said, “we will open new and different services. We’ll focus a lot on urgent care services there.” While the expansion is nearing completion, remodeling of the existing facility will continue through spring 2020.