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Students have scant options when sick on weekends

I write this letter primarily as a warning to other unsuspecting freshmen and the Duke community at large: Avoid, at all costs, falling ill on a weekend. Thanks to a baffling system for student health emergencies and a sore throat, last Saturday, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I woke up in the early afternoon with a red and very irritated pharynx. Fearing strep throat, I located the Student Health Clinic on East Campus (unmarked on any map I could find) and found that it was open only Monday through Friday. I returned to my dorm, talked to a residential advisor, and learned that the Student Health Center on Flowers Drive would be able to help.

I rode a bus to Trent Drive Hall, on her advice, and found no signs present to indicate the Student Health Center's existence. Trudging aimlessly through the pouring rain, I eventually decided to enter one of the structures in a large complex at the top of the hill that I soon found to be the Duke University Medical Center.

After nearly 20 minutes of bumbling through the abandoned building, I ran into a kind woman who directed me, in the sub-basement, to the Student Health Center. But my hope of getting medical attention was short-lived--we looked on, both of us in surprise, at the abandoned reception area, a metal gate in front of it.

My only recourse, she told me, was to reach a distant area of the building and take a special bus to Duke Hospital North (which I had never heard of) and go to the emergency room.

Deciding this plan to be a tad excessive for a sore throat, I thanked her and went to the ground floor, prepared to head back to East. To my shock, however, nearly every marked "exit" turned out to be a locked emergency exit. I ended up escaping the labyrinth through a first floor window, unsuccessful, back into the rain.

Maybe I missed something during orientation or maybe I just don't know my way around campus well enough. But as far as I can tell, the clinic on East was closed; the center near Trent, out of service; and the emergency room, extraordinarily remote.

This situation poses a real problem for anyone unfortunate enough to get sick on a Saturday, and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.


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