Like a Pandora’s Box

Regarding your editorial, “The Real Issue Is Students’ Health” (Feb. 19), the birth control controversy may have clouded the issue. We in Los Angeles know experientially that school-based clinics have no silver lining.

San Fernando High School (in the L.A. Unified School District), received a clinic in November, 1987. About 25% of the predominantly Hispanic 3,000-member student body uses its services. This on-campus clinic has been a classic case of “what you see is (not) what you get.” We were promised comprehensive health care. What we got is nothing more than basic first aid and simple, diagnostic medical care. In fact, the majority of the time, students are not treated by a doctor, but by a nurse practitioner or clinician.

The real kicker about the school-based clinic is that (with the exception of dispensing medication), almost two-thirds of its services are already provided to students by our approximately $20-million annual student health services division budget. The greatest use of the clinic is for sports physicals, which have always been provided by our district.

The birth control issue does cloud other equally vital issues. Ripe for debate is the unlimited medical malpractice liability, the distraction of the learning process that an on-campus clinic causes, real and future cost, as well as the duplication of services, both within the school and community.

School-based clinics, when opened, become not what you see, but what you get. Just like Pandora’s box.