Bassett to Discontinue Inpatient Psychiatric Services

March 1, 2014

Bassett Medical Center has notified the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) that due to severe provider shortages, it plans to discontinue its inpatient psychiatric services. Approval of the formal closure plan is expected from the state in one to two weeks. In the interim, the services will be maintained.

Bassett’s emergency department will still care for patients with mental health issues. However, plans are underway to transition crisis center services from the hospital site to a mobile crisis program.

Bassett will continue to serve the broader patient population needing outpatient mental health care. Transitioning away from inpatient psychiatric care will allow the organization to reallocate remaining resources and focus on expanding and strengthening its community and school-based outpatient mental health services.

In making the announcement, President & CEO William F. Streck, M.D., said, “We did not make the decision to discontinue inpatient psychiatry services lightly and regret having to take this action. However, it has been impossible to recruit psychiatrists and advanced practice clinicians who wish to participate in inpatient psychiatric care. This problem is not unique to Bassett. The shortage of mental health providers is a state and nationwide issue.”

The provider shortages are particularly critical among psychiatrists and advanced practice mental health clinicians (i.e. nurse practitioners and physician assistants). In a 2013 survey by the Healthcare Association of New York State, 58 percent of hospitals and health systems reported a shortage of psychiatrists and nearly 40 percent reported having a psychiatry staff close to retirement.

Bassett notified the OMH in December of last year that it would reduce its inpatient psychiatric unit from 20 to 10 beds as the result of provider staffing challenges and has been working for several months on finding ways to maintain the program.

“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,” noted Streck. “However, that has not happened and it is clear that the recruitment challenges to appropriately staff the unit are too big to overcome.”

With OMH approval of the closure plan, patients currently being cared for in Bassett’s inpatient psychiatry unit will remain until they are ready for discharge. Patients needing longer term services will be transferred to another psychiatric facility licensed for inpatient psychiatric care. Options include facilities in Binghamton, Schenectady and Utica.

Bassett’s Emergency Department will still be able to accept patients experiencing emergency mental health issues. However, if those patients need a higher level of care requiring inpatient admission, they will be transferred to a facility able to accept them.

Bassett will make every attempt to place staff affected by the decision in other positions available at Bassett Medical Center or connect staff with job opportunities elsewhere within the Bassett Healthcare Network. If staff prefer, the organization can also connect them with job transition services outside of Bassett.

While Bassett has filed a closure plan with the state, Streck says the organization still intends to pursue additional psychiatric service expansion through Vital Access Provider funding and programs that are eligible under the soon to be announced Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program as agreed to between New York State and Medicare.

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