News & Events

Department of Public Health to Hold Public Hearing On the Proposed Closure of a 15-bed Psychiatric Unit at Burbank Hospital

M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y


CONTACTS: David Schildmeier, (781) 249-043

November 29, 2010

Department of Public Health to Hold Public Hearing
On the Proposed Closure of a 15-bed Psychiatric Unit at Burbank Hospital

Opponents to the Closing Will Present Testimony Detailing the Devastating Impact the Loss of this Service Will Have on the Most Vulnerable Mentally Ill Patients in Northern Worcester County

Debate Over Burbank Closing Highlights Growing Crisis in Massachusetts
As the Public and Private Sector Fail to Provide Appropriate Care for Those with Mental Illness

When: Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010 at 2 p.m.

Where: Health Alliance, Burbank Hospital Campus, Bergevin Conference Room,
275 Nichols Rd., Fitchburg, MA

What: The Department of Public Health will hold a public hearing on Dec. 1 concerning the plan by UMass Memorial-Health Alliance to close its 15-bed Psychiatric Unit at the Burbank Hospital campus in Fitchburg, MA. The public hearing is part of the legal process UMass Memorial-Health Alliance is required to go through prior to closing the service, which cannot take place until Jan. 15, 2011, pending approval by DPH. The proposed closing has been met with strong opposition by a variety of groups and individuals, including mental health advocates, clinicians and elected officials who believe the loss of this service will have a devastating impact on the most needy and vulnerable mentally ill residents of Northern Worcester County who depend on Burbank Hospital for acute mental health care. The unit’s closing comes at a time when there is a critical and growing shortage of inpatient mental health treatment beds. In many cases severely mentally ill patients are languishing for days in the area’s emergency departments waiting for an inpatient treatment bed. To win DPH approval for the closing, the hospital must demonstrate that the loss of this service will not deprive patients’ access to appropriate care. While the hospital claims the acute care services provided by the inpatient unit can be handled by other hospitals, emergency rooms and residential programs, opponents will provide evidence showing that the Health Alliance plan for alternative care is inadequate, forcing patients into settings that can’t provide appropriate treatment, forcing patients to travel long distances for care, or forcing patients to go without treatment altogether. Adding to the ire of opponents is the fact that Burbank Hospital is part of the UMass/Health Alliance health care system, which has reported a significant profit of more than $130 million over the last 18 months and can well afford to keep this service open.

Who: Scheduled to speak at the hearing:

  • Representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts
  • Legislators who represent the 80,000 residents served by the Burbank Unit.
  • The Fitchburg Chief of Police
  • Nurses who work in the Burbank unit.
  • Nurses who work at the surrounding hospitals Health Alliance claims can handle these patients.