In 2006, USC approved plans to replace the outdated University Park Health Center, which has just half the space of health centers at comparable schools, according to executive directory Dr. Lawrence Neinstein.
But despite the major problems with the current UPHC, the plans for the new health center have been halted and the timeline for construction remains indefinite.
“This particular project was put on hold in the pre-construction process,” said Robert Cooper, vice provost for planning and budget. “USC had a hiring and salary freeze along with a construction freeze for many projects. We couldn’t delay the campus center and other things that were already in progress, but this got put on hold.”
Neinstein said there has been debate about creating a new health center for almost 15 years. The current health center, he said, is lacking compared to other schools.
“The average standards are two or three exam rooms per clinician, and we don’t even have one per clinician,” Neinstein said.
The number of visits to the health center has increased from 31,000 visits in 1995 to 81,000 visits last year, Neinstein said. He said the health center is undersized for the number of students it serves, and that affects the flow of traffic and wait times.
“We want to offer what we should be having in a health center,” Neinstein said. “For students, it’s going to offer shorter waiting times, more privacy and a more state-of-the-art outpatient center.”
Though this new health center has been in the works for a while, the struggling economy stopped the plan in its tracks — it has not gone beyond the pre-construction phases.
“We’re going through the architectural design and site placement and everything that would get us to what the building would cost to construct,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the stall is a safeguard against an uncertain economy.
“It was more preemptive, not really knowing where the economy was going to go,” Cooper said. “This was not the only project that was put on hold. It doesn’t mean we’re not doing them, but they’re on hold until we get a better idea of where the investment markets are going.”
Cooper could not give an estimate as to how much the construction will cost, as size and design have not yet been finalized.
Neinstein said the health center will likely be built in USC’s signature style — with a red brick exterior. It will likely be located in the parking lot directly behind the Lyon Center, he said.
Despite the temporary stop, those involved in the project hope construction will get underway soon.
“We’re hoping that this will move forward in the next four to six months,” Neinstein said. “Once you get the green light, construction would probably begin in about nine to 12 months and take another two years to finish.”
Some students said USC should do everything in its power to expedite the process.
“I’ve been to the health center before and it wasn’t the facilities that were that bad, it was the service was really slow,” said Addison Lee, a senior majoring in economics. “It felt really cramped, and I was bumping into people when I was on my crutches, which was not safe.”
Other students, however, say constructing a new health center is not an urgent matter.
“I think it’s a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ thing. ‘Yes’ being in that helps cut down on the red tape that sometimes occurs at numerous college health centers,” Kazi Nafis, a senior majoring in neuroscience, said. “‘No,’ in that the campus already has a pretty decent health center on campus, so there is no need to create more buildings when there is a building already functioning properly.”