WORCESTER, Mass., May 9, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Massachusetts Nurses Association:
In a strongly worded letter to UMass Memorial Medical Center, the Mass. Department of Public Health rejected the hospital's plan to close 13 of 27 inpatient psychiatric beds at its University Campus at a time when the psychiatric unit is nearly always full and patients are boarding in the hospital's emergency department for several hours to several days waiting for needed care and services, including those patients with both psychiatric and medical conditions that cannot be cared for at any of the alternative sites identified by UMMMC.
The DPH letter, sent to the hospital yesterday, was issued in response to a plan submitted by the hospital which the DPH requested as part of its legal review and evaluation of the closure's impact on the health of the community. On April 17, the DPH had issued an initial finding that the beds slated for closure provided an essential service that is "necessary for preserving access and health status in the hospitals' service area." The DPH had requested the hospital provide more detailed information about their plan for the closure and their rationale for how patients would be cared for post closure.
In rejecting the hospital's closure plan, the DPH calls into question nearly every aspect of the hospital's rationale for the closure, stating UMass Memorial's response does not "meet the needs of the patients in the Community. As a result of this review, the Department is deeply concerned that the proposed closure of thirteen out of twenty-seven psychiatric beds in the central Massachusetts area, will impact the timely admission and treatment of persons in need of inpatient psychiatric care." The DPH further calls upon the hospital to "reassess" the closure "to best meet the needs of those individuals presenting with a need for inpatient psychiatric care." Reporters can obtain a PDF of the letter by emailing email@example.com.
The DPH is not alone in its opposition to the closure, as the plan has been met with strident opposition from every sector of the community, including leading mental health advocates, the Worcester City Council (which cast a unanimous vote in opposition to the closure), several members of the Worcester legislative delegation, local law enforcement officials, former patients and family members of patients, as well as staff at the facility.
"No one outside of those proposing this callous and dangerous plan supports this closure," said Lisa Goss, RN, a nurse on 8 East, the unit where the beds are slated for closure. "All, including the agency in our state charged with protecting public health have evaluated and rejected the hospital's arguments for this closure, yet UMass has turned a deaf ear to the outcry from our community."
UMass Management Shocks Staff by Threatening to Close the Unit Regardless of DPH Findings
Goss's skepticism about UMass Memorial management's commitment to its patients is well founded. Nearly two weeks ago, after the DPH issued its initial finding that the beds slated for closure were an essential service that should be preserved, and before UMass had even submitted its required response to DPH, hospital management met with the staff on the unit and told them that they planned to go forward with the closure no matter what DPH ruled.
"We were shocked that our management could take such an arrogant position and show such blatant disdain for our patients, and those who oversee the safety of our patients," said Goss. "In the interest of our patients and this community, we can only hope that UMass management finally comes to its senses and places its concern for patients ahead of its concern for the bottom line."
The DPH rejected nearly every claim made by the hospital to justify the closing, including rejecting its contention that patients currently cared for on the unit can be safely admitted and cared for in other facilities in the region, particularly patients with both psychiatric and medical conditions, and patients who may be poor. "As the existing beds at the Medical Center treat patients with both psychiatric and medical needs, the Department is deeply concerned that the lack of information on diagnoses accepted at alternative sites and the potential inability of these alternate sites to accept some patients from the Medical Center will delay transfer of these patients to a facility that can meet their needs"
The DPH letter further states, "these additional sites are not immediately available…Given the uncertainty of bed availability, the Department questions the Medical Center's assertion that there is sufficient capacity to treat patients with serious medical needs. Further, the Department is concerned that the Medical Center's reliance on beds at other facilities will consequently strain the regional capacity and limit access to inpatient psychiatric services and lead to increased ED boarding."
In January, the management of UMass Memorial Medical Center announced plans to close 13 of the 27 psychiatric beds on 8 East, its busy inpatient psychiatric unit, and to convert these beds to medical surgical beds.
On 8 East staff care for patients from the age of 16 up to geriatrics. They suffer from a range of mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and also may be suicidal, self-injurious, and have homicidal thoughts and behavior. These patients often also need treatment for other medical issues which they are able to receive on 8 East because it is a medical psychiatric unit within an acute care hospital.
This unit is nearly always full, while at the same time, the UMass University and UMass Memorial emergency departments are overburdened with psychiatric patients waiting for a bed on this or any other unit in the state that can take them These patients often wait several hours to several days for a bed.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.
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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association