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April 10, 2014

Bassett to close psychiatric unit


Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin said deputies are responding to more cases involving mental health issues, though he didn’t have numbers immediately available Friday afternoon.

“We have the same concerns as the police department,” Devlin said.

According to a media release issued Friday, Bassett Medical Center has notified the state Office of Mental Health that because of “severe provider shortages, it plans to discontinue its inpatient psychiatric services.” Approval of the closure plan is expected from the state in one to two weeks, the Bassett release said.

“We did not make the decision to discontinue inpatient psychiatry services lightly and regret having to take this action,” Dr. William F. Streck, Bassett president and chief executive officer, said in the release.

“However, it has been impossible to recruit psychiatrists and advanced practice clinicians who wish to participate in inpatient psychiatric care,” Streck said. “This problem is not unique to Bassett. The shortage of mental health providers is a state and nationwide issue.”

A 2013 survey by the Healthcare Association of New York State reported that 58 percent of hospitals and health systems reported a shortage of psychiatrists, and about a third of hospitals reduced services because of the shortage, with the rate at about 50 percent among rural hospitals, the survey said.

In December, Bassett notified the Office of Mental Health that it would cut its inpatient psychiatric unit from 20 to 10 beds because of staffing challenges.

“We have been sincere in our belief that as a result of discussions with the state about where Bassett fits into the state’s overall solution for mental health, we could collectively come up with a way to adequately support inpatient psychiatric services,” Streck said in the release. “However, that has not happened, and it is clear that the recruitment challenges to appropriately staff the unit are too big to overcome.”

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