Shippensburg University announced a new partnership with WellSpan Health to provide on-campus health care for students Aug. 6, despite concerns over privatization.
WellSpan will offer primary care services in the Etter Health Center, located on the ground floor of Naugle Hall. The health care provider will replace the previous university supplied health care system.
Students will have access to primary health care as well as WellSpan’s network of resources in wellness programming, the release said.
WellSpan is a health care system based in York, Pennsylvania, that operates multiple hospitals in central Pennsylvania.
At SU, it will provide services such as point-of-care testing, including for COVID-19 coronavirus, medications and immunizations. Students will also have access to telemedicine health services when they cannot see staff members in person.
SU officials said the partnership strengthens the university’s commitment to wellness, which is supported by a campus-wide initiative launched last fall.
SU President Laurie Carter said the university is grateful to continue the commitment to wellness through the collaborative opportunity.
“Now more than ever, I encourage students to make their wellness a priority and use the extensive services offered under this new partnership,” Carter said.
In a Zoom interview, SU Chief External Relations Officer Kim Garris said the partnership expands services for students.
Garris said the university entered into a one-year sole source agreement for the 2020-21 year and will now conduct a formal request for proposal (RFP) process for future services.
Michael Bodinsky, Office and Professional Employees International Union - 112 Local Pennsylvania Nurses Association (OPEIU) Healthcare executive director, contacted The Slate raising questions about the awarding of the healthcare center contract.
Bodinsky represents the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Health Center nurses union. He said they have been trying to offer alternatives against outsourcing the student health services.
The union believes that the proposed outsourced contract provides a lesser quality of healthcare to the students.
Bodinsky said the university initially chose Keystone Health and furloughed the Etter Health Center nursing staff in early July.
However, the deal fell through, leaving SU searching for other options.
While Garris could not confirm the contractor, she said, “We [the university] had been working on a different arrangement that didn't happen.”
Local healthcare provider Keystone Health had listed positions for a “Shippensburg University Clinic” on its website in mid-June but as of publication the positions have been removed.
Bodinsky said he felt that the contract bidding process was not competitive.
“We offered some alternatives in the process that weren’t considered,” he said.
Bodinsky questioned why Keystone was the only considered provider and now that their offer is no longer on the table, WellSpan is now also capable.
“If WellSpan could do it now, they could bid that and have been competitive in the original contract,” Bodinsky said. “They should have been included at the beginning of the process.”
Bodinsky called the concept of a sole source contract “a smokescreen.”
He said single source contracts are often used during critical times where the contractor is the only one capable of providing the supply, service or construction.
“This was not the normal procedure for RFP of this nature,” Bodinsky said.
Bodinsky, who is also an attorney, said any contract over $25,000 should be put out to bid.
The Etter Health Center contract is worth $775,000.
When asked about the nature of the sole source contract Garris said by using a sole source process, the university ensured it would be able offer a full-range of enhanced services for fall 2020.
She also confirmed the contract amount of $775,000 and added it will provide “greatly expanded services.” The university followed the process as defined by state policy, according to Garris.
Bodinsky believes the nursing staff can provide the best care, as they personally know the campus and students. He said they often act as “surrogate mothers” to students who are experiencing illness while living away from home.
“They really, really care for those students,” he said.
Bodinsky said SU has rescinded the nurses’ furloughs but he is not sure they will return.
Two of the nurses were looking for other employment while one chose to retire.
“The expertise of these two nurses is invaluable,” Bodinsky said.
While he does not know if the nurses will come back, Bodinsky said it will be an easier transition and will uphold the level of care if they choose to return. He said the nurses understand the healthcare delivery system on campus, which is unfamiliar to WellSpan.
“Since wellspan has never delivered it [this type of care], I think the quality of care is going to be less than before,” Bodinsky said.
Etter Health Center is open to all Shippensburg University students and will operate during the regular semester, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.