After two years of construction starting in April 2015, Cornell Health — formerly Gannett Health Services — has finally opened its entrance on Ho Plaza to the campus community with fully renovated facilities.
Prompted by a 2005 independent study that deemed the former Gannett Health Services “significantly undersized to serve the campus population,” plans to fully reconstruct the health facility were drafted by 2009, according to Nianne VanFleet, director of operations of Cornell Health.
However, financial constraints tabled the plans until 2013, when a more cost-effective way to expand the existing building for less than half the original cost revived the project, VanFleet said.
This expansion was “overdue,” as the demand for health services increased by 250 percent with a student body that had doubled since Gannett’s opening in 1956, according to Chris Payne, director of administrative services of Cornell Health.
“We had to be very creative [at the former Gannett facility] to meet the increasing demand for services, including turning closets and storage spaces into office and exam rooms,” Payne said.
Furthermore, while the former Gannett Clinic building complied with the codes and healthcare standards of America circa 1950, by 2015, the building failed to meet modern codes and standards, including the American Disabilities Act of 1990.
Following the expansion, Cornell Health once again boasts facilities and equipments that meet the up-to-date standards.
“We’re very happy that students are finding our new building to be so modern, attractive, and easy to navigate,” said Dr. Kent Bullis, executive director of Cornell Health.
Bullis emphasized that Cornell Health’s architects, in approaching the project, sought to increase accessibility within the building while creating a welcoming environment for students.
“Many of our visitors come to us when they’re feeling their worst, and we believe that providing a welcoming, peaceful physical space is an important part of helping our patients and clients heal and feel their best,” Bullis said.
For example, the integrative clinical care units on levels 3,5 and 7 include collaborative care teams of medical providers, counselors, psychiatrists and nutritionists, “enabling staff to better work together to care for students medical and mental health needs,” Bullis said.
Integrated medical and mental health care units and more private clinician offices allow for greater patient privacy and may help lessen potential self-consciousness about visits.
Furthermore, Student Disability Services and the Office of Student Health Benefits have relocated to Cornell Health.
“Busy students appreciate the ‘one-stop-shopping’ model of the new facility,” he said. “The fully-accessible space also helps reduce barriers to care for those with mobility-related challenges and provide meeting space for members of our community to come together.”
Additional conference spaces will be available to the entire Cornell community for hosting administrative meetings, speakers, campus partners and student groups.
For those concerned about how the renovation of Cornell Health might affect financial access, Payne reiterated that Cornell Health will continue to provide their full range of medical and mental health services to all registered students.
The health fee, established in fall 2015, will continue to allow nearly all students access to care with “limited out-of-pocket costs at the time of service,” Payne said, and despite a $10 copay for most Student Health Plan medical and counseling visits, Cornell Health and the Office of Financial Aid will also provide “payment and assistance options.”
“We strongly believe that inability to pay should never be a barrier to receiving care,” Payne said.
That commitment to inclusive campus health care is reflected in the health center’s renaming from Gannett to Cornell Health, Bullis added.
“We chose ‘Cornell Health’ to reflect the university’s shared commitment to supporting the health and well-being of our diverse student body,” Bullis said. “We believe that when students are healthy and feeling their best, they learn better and can fully participate in all that Cornell has to offer.”