Follow Up: The Alternative Clinic Too Much of a Legal Liability after Over 30 Years of Service with No Prior Legal Incidents

Originally published on The Purchase Brick

Last week it was announced that the alternative clinic was shut down after over 30 years of service due to “legal liability” because it was a student run organization.

The PSGA service has six student interns, a faculty advisor, and a nurse practitioner as the site supervisor; the Alternative Clinic has been around since 1979 that provided gynecological services. Some of its medical services included: free pregnancy tests, STI testing, free pelvic exams, and much more.

Nancy Reuben, Medical Director of Health Services and Adrienne Belluscio, Administrative Director of Health Services, was able to answer a few more of our questions through email on why the alternative clinic was shut down.

“The decision to disband the aspect of the Alternative Clinic that has taken place within the PCHS (Purchase College Health Service) was made entirely by the SUNY Counsel–the lawyer for the State University of New York. It was an issue of liability for the students working in the AC, the PSGA, and the college at large, the details of which would be more accurately addressed by the Counsel for SUNY.”

According to Health Services the investigation led by SUNY Legal Counsel started since November of last year.

Co-Director of the Alternative Clinic, Erica Basco noted that when Health Services started asking questions last semester about the clinic they believed it to be regular routine paperwork and of course complied.

“Last semester, we started to get questioned from various Purchase administration people from health services wondering who, we as the alternative clinic, are legally accountable to. We have relationships with different things on campus, so the question was, is the PSGA liable, or is Health Services liable, or is it Purchase College that’s liable?”

Eventually SUNY legal counsel became concerned with legal liability of the clinic. So on Tuesday, Feburary 7th there was a meeting held with the directors of the Alternative Clinic, health services, the faculty sponsor professor Karen Baird, members of career development and student affairs, and people who are the heads of the PSGA, all sat down with the SUNY legal counsel member. It was decided that because the clinic doesn’t have medical malpractice insurance for the students, there was always the threat for someone to sue both the clinic and the college if something were to go wrong. This conclusion is why the clinic was forced to be shut down.

“I would like to say though, no one has ever sued us ever, in 33 years; some people would say that’s lucky,” said Basco.

It was mention in the last article that one of the problems foreseen in the closing of the clinic was Health services now has doubled in caseload.

How Bellusico and Reuben responded to this future problem, “The AC (Alternative Clinic) sees on the order of 100-150 student visits per year. Our service, which has four female clinicians, all with decades of experience in Gynecology and Women’s Health, sees on the average of 800-1000 Gyn-related student visits per year. We could always use more hours, but at present we do not have the resources for those extra services, given our commitment to taking care of an additional 3200 students with non-Gyn health and medical needs.”

They have faith in the Health Services, but they also realize there will always be drawbacks. Health Services doesn’t just supply Gyn-related and women’s health services like Alternative Clinic did, so of course it will be a challenge.

The student reactions to the alternative clinic being shut down has been

Psychology major and Resident Assistant, Taylor Edelmann was the student who started the petition on to save the Alternative Clinic.

“I started the petition up because I thought that it was the least I could do for such an important service on campus. I also wanted to be able to have a way to show how much support The Alternative Clinic has, and to eventually show the administration how many people are going to be affected by their decision,” said Edelmann.

There are currently 372 signatures.

“Judging from the people who’ve talked to me, everyone is really angry about this. It’s a huge loss to the community. It’s a great legacy of what we do, and it’s really sad to say goodbye to that, but it doesn’t mean the end of the alternative clinic. Our name might change, and we might end up doing peer counseling, or hotlines. It’s really touching to see how many people care about this,” said Erica Basco.



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