PALMER and WESTFIELD, Mass. – The state Department of Public Health has found that the intensive care units at Baystate Noble and Wing hospitals are “necessary for preserving access and health” and that Baystate Health must prepare a plan showing how it will maintain services for area residents.
The findings – sent by letter to Baystate earlier this month –follow public meetings in which nurses, patients and residents advocated to keep the units open to ensure access to quality, life-saving treatment. They also include Baystate’s pediatric unit at Noble Hospital. For copies of the DPH letters, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The ICUs at Noble and Wing are a vital part of those hospitals and the communities they serve,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN and president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Many patients rely on the ICU – patients who need the critical care at the moment they need it. Minutes, even seconds, count when a patient requires ICU-level care.”
DPH’s decision comes as a growing coalition of Western Massachusetts advocates continue to oppose Baystate’s plan to eliminate mental health beds at its community hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield. That plan has drawn strong opposition from nurses, patients, mental health counselors, families and elected officials. The Greenfield City Council is planning to hold public meetings about the proposal as it considers a vote urging Baystate to keep its acute mental health unit open at Baystate Franklin Medical Center.
“This decision by DPH that the ICUs in Palmer and Westfield are essential for area residents bolsters our case that closing mental health beds in three different communities would jeopardize access to quality care for thousands of patients,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric nurse and Chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at BFMC in Greenfield. “DPH officials cite similar concerns about transportation and the needs of community members in its ICU decision that we have previously raised about Baystate’s plan to close our mental health units. Patients and their families need quality inpatient services close to home for access and quality recovery.”
Baystate said in February it planned to close the mental health units in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield in about two years after opening a for-profit facility in Holyoke. It plans to close the ICUs and Noble’s pediatric unit on Aug. 30, 2019. In its July 2 letters, DPH gave the health system 15 calendar days to prepare a plan that should cover topics including:
- Utilization of the service
- How Baystate will continue care for current patients
- Engagement with community groups
- Cultural and linguistic needs of the population
At the state level, MNA nurses and numerous lawmakers are supporting a bill — An Act Relative to the Closing of Hospital Essential Services, (H. 1139/S. 672) – to strengthen our existing hospital closure law. Legislators held a hearing at the State House on the bill May 28.
“Baystate’s proposed ICU and mental health closures are part of a long and harmful trend in the hospital industry. Baystate is closing services it deems not as valuable to its profit margins while decimating access for community members who have complex healthcare needs,” Kelly-Williams said. “The elimination of essential hospital services has a profound negative effect on the care of patients and puts a strain on other, already overburdened health systems.
“The public deserves a stronger voice in these decisions and the Department of Public Health needs greater power to protect and preserve services that it deems essential for the health of these communities. It is wrong to allow vulnerable patients to suffer because these health care corporations are allowed to put their drive for profits ahead of their mission of providing care to all patients.”
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.