Faulty COVID test results, dismissive staff: Students face health care obstacles

Brianna McEldowney and Melina Khan

Quinnipiac University students say receiving medical care on campus has been especially difficult this semester because of inaccurate COVID-19 test results, dismissive staff and challenges scheduling appointments. 

Christy Chase, director of Student Health Services, said the health center has seen a 23% increase in visits this semester and some days the health center has over 120 patients.

Students said they had negative experiences at the Health and Wellness Center. (Daniel Passapera/Chronicle)

“Most students are experiencing an upper respiratory viral illness that is not COVID,” Chase said. “As life starts to return to more normal, we will all continue to see viral illnesses and possibly flu as restrictions on masking and spacing are lifted.”

However, students who were recently sick said receiving adequate treatment at the health center is difficult.

Alexa Freede, a sophomore interdisciplinary studies major, went in with cold symptoms and was tested for COVID-19. She said her test came back as a false positive and despite two subsequent negative results, Student Health Services officials required her to quarantine for a day. 

Freede said the workers at the health center told her faulty COVID-19 tests have been a problem, which has led students to be forced into quarantine.

“They knew themselves, they were like, ‘this is an issue,’” Freede said. “The lady then tested me with another box … and I was fully negative.” 

Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said Student Health Services uses a three-step process when testing students for COVID-19. Students are first tested with a 15-minute antigen BinaxNOW test. If that result is positive, the student will be tested with an Abbott ID molecular test. If that result is negative, a PCR test will be administered and is sent to an off-campus laboratory for testing. 

Freede said her false positive result came from the BinaxNOW test, and when she took the Abbott ID and PCR tests they were negative.

Other students said they have had similar experiences to Freede’s. Emily Butler, a sophomore nursing major, sought care at the health center last week for a common cold. She said she did not have a good experience during her appointment.

“The (physician’s assistant) I spoke to was very dismissive about my symptoms and stuff and was like, ‘oh you’re fine, you’re fine,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t feel fine, I have a fever,’” Butler said. 

The physician’s assistant gave her decongestants and cough drops, but Butler said they have not improved her health. She said she has been borrowing cold medicine from her roommate instead.

In the future, Freede said she would rather travel off campus for care. After seeing what she experienced, one of Freede’s friends, sophomore education major Alesandra Sicuranza, already did so.

“After that experience, I drove home to my own doctor,” Sicuranza said. “I was like, ‘I’m not having that happen to me.’” 

Chase said “students should continue to be diligent regarding basic hygiene practices, including good hand washing, getting enough rest, following a well-balanced diet, not sharing any items and continuing to wipe down surfaces.”

In past years, students have also faced challenges with the health clinic. 

Gabriella Angeletti, a graduate occupational therapy student, visited the health clinic right before last year’s Thanksgiving break in order to receive medication. 

“She never sent the prescription to my pharmacy and then when I tried calling back the phones were off for a week because it was (winter) break,” Angeletti said. “I had to go to my doctor at home who had to squeeze me in last minute.”

Making appointments has always been a difficult process, Angelleti said.

“I know they used to do it online and that was complicated, and now you have to call, you can’t walk in, it’s not as accessible as it should be,” Angeletti said.

Chase said appointments are scheduled based on the urgency of the care needed.

“Our staff strives to offer every student the same comprehensive care,” Chase said.