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November 27, 2013

Bassett reducing psychiatric beds

Coping with a shortage of mental health providers, Bassett Medical Center is taking steps to reduce its 20-bed psychiatric unit to 10 beds effective Dec. 1, hospital officials have confirmed in response to inquires from The Daily Star.

Hospital spokeswoman Karen Huxtable-Hooker said the downsizing of the unit was prompted by what she called a short-term staffing issue.

The hospital will be at 10 psychiatric beds for “the foreseeable future,” she said.

Dr. Celeste Johns, the hospital’s chief of psychiatric, said in an email forwarded to the newspaper by Huxtable-Hooker that “provider shortages are particularly critical in Psychiatrists (MD positions) and Psychiatric RN positions, as well as psychiatric social workers.”

She added: “Psychiatrists are a nationwide shortage specialty, and facilities in Central New York share our difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified psychiatrists.”

Hospital officials acknowledged that financial challenges are intertwined with the shortage of providers specializing in psychiatric services.

“They (providers) are hard to find and using temporary professional staffing is very expensive and reimbursement rates often don’t cover the costs of providing mental health services,: Huxtable-Hooker said. “These issues are also acknowledged by OMH (the state Office of Mental Health) and DOH (the state Department of Health.)

Bassett cut the number of psychiatric beds to 10 for one month last summer for the same reason it is moving to do so again, she said.

Johns said the hospital is in conversation with state officials on the “complex issue of maintaining psychiatric services for the region and trying to determine where Bassett fits into the state’s overall solution for mental health.”

The national shortage of hospital psychiatric beds was spotlighted this week in Virginia when a state senator, Creigh Deeds, was stabbed more than 10 times by his 24-year-old son, who then shot himself.

One day before the attack, the local sheriff took the son to a hospital under an emergency custody order. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported the son had to be released because there were no available psychiatric beds at the hospital.

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