MA Dept. of Public Health Rejects UMass Memorial’s Plan to Close 13 Psych Beds

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
GoLocalWorcester News Team

Department of Public Health rejects UMass' plan to close beds
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has rejected UMass Memorial Medical Center’s plan to close 13 of 27 inpatient psychiatric beds at its University Campus. 

In a letter sent to the hospital on Monday, the DPH calls into question almost every aspect of the hospital’s reasoning for closing the beds.

The DPH states that 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.”

This letter comes after the DPH issued an initial finding that the beds set for closure provided an essential service. 

UMass’ Justification Rejected 

The letter rejected the hospital's contention that patients who are currently cared for on the unit in which beds will be closed can be admitted and cared for in other facilities in the region. 

“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 continues “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.”

Others Opposing Bed Closures 

The DPH is not the only ones who are opposed to UMass closing the beds. 

Community members, including mental health advocates, the Worcester City Council, members of the Worcester legislative delegations, local law enforcement officials, former patients and family members of patients, as well as staff at the facility have opposed the bed closures. 

“No one outside of those proposing this callous and dangerous plan supports this 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,” said Lisa Goss, RN, a nurse on 8 East, the unit where the beds are slated for closure. 

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