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Making student healthcare more accessible

The Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) Health and Dental Plan Office recently took steps to improve accessibility at Dalhousie University. 

The office installed a mini fridge: a measure taken to better accommodate students whose prescription medications, like insulin, require refrigeration.  

Until this change, those who require refrigerated medication had it delivered in a styrofoam cold pack, which is designed to keep the medication cold for up to five days – depending on the drug. This was the office’s only method of making sure the students who required refrigerated medication received it chilled. 

The decision to install a fridge came after a false alarm. Dalhousie University student (and page designer for the Dalhousie Gazette) Alexandra Fox was called and told she had to come pick up her medication from the office immediately, as they did not have a fridge to store it properly.  

According to Student VIP International’s President, Samantha Morneau, the call was made by a new staff member of the office who was not aware that the medication was already stored in a cold pack and could be left that way.  

“I got two phone calls saying: ‘Your prescriptions are here, you have to come pick them up right away, they need to be refrigerated and we don’t have a fridge,’” said Fox, who was in class. And as a day student, also didn’t have a fridge to store her medication.  

Fox, just like every full-time Dalhousie student who starts in September, is automatically covered under the DSU’s Health and Dental plan. The plan, Entitled Student VIP, is operated by a company under the same name and features a prescription medication delivery service called Direct2U run through a partnership with Alliance Pharmacy.  

This is the service Fox chose to use to have her medication delivered. Direct2U offers students who use it a 100 per cent discount on generic drugs and an 80 per cent discount on brand name medication, per Student VIP. 

According to Student VIP, students who choose to use a pharmacy other than Alliance for their medication will be granted an 80 per cent reimbursement on generic drugs and a 50 per cent reimbursement on brand name drugs.  

Direct2U’s main feature is home delivery. The student, or another adult who lives in the residence, must be present to sign for medication to receive it at their doorstep. This is an issue for students like Fox who live alone. 

“You have to be at your door, they can’t leave it at your door, which makes sense if it’s medication. But also, if you’re a full-time student what’re you gonna do?” said Fox. 

If students and their roommates have full class schedules, or they live alone and have a full class schedule, according to Student VIP, the package will then be either returned to the post office where the student must pick it up or students can have their packages delivered to the DSU Health and Dental Plan Office, located on the third floor of the Student Union Building.  

The office is open Monday to Friday at 9:30 a.m. and offers extended office hours three days a week until 7:30 p.m. Additionally, there’s an onsite Halifax coordinator who’s available for out of office hours to arrange for emergency pickups.  

This leaves students with ample chances to retrieve their medication. If a situation were to arise where a student couldn’t pick up their refrigerated medication in the five-day window of the cold pack, the newly-installed fridge prevents that from being an issue.  

“After consideration we determined that although it has not happened yet, that there could be situations where a student may not be able to get into the office within the five-day period that a medication can remain cold in the packaging,” Morneau said in an email. “As such we purchased and installed the mini fridge as an added layer of protection should this situation arise.”  


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