HOLYOKE, Mass. – The registered nurses of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital were shocked and dismayed to learn on Friday that hospital owner Trinity Health told the Department of Public Health it plans to discontinue the use of 74 mental beds while at the same time Trinity makes billions of dollars in revenue annually and Massachusetts officials have repeatedly pressed for increased investment in mental health services.
“Trinity Health’s decision to discontinue our mental health beds puts our communities at risk,” said Cindy Chaplin, RN at Providence and Co-Chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee. “When everyone else in Massachusetts agrees we should be making it easier for patients to get high-quality mental healthcare, Trinity is going in the opposite direction.
“There are patients – especially children – waiting in emergency departments and hallways all over Western Massachusetts who need beds just like the ones Trinity is choosing to shutter. Trinity has the resources to maintain and enhance these services. Our nurses will join with our patients, their families and our communities to fight this misguided decision.”
Trinity Health operates 92 hospitals and 106 continuing care facilities in 22 states. Trinity has a workforce of 131,000, annual operating revenues of $19.3 billion, and assets of $27 billion, according to Trinity. The organization had more than $650 million in offshore accounts as of fiscal year 2017.
In a letter from Trinity to DPH dated February 28, 2020, the Michigan-based hospital chain said it has “proposed discontinuation of the licensed 50-bed inpatient Psychiatric Service and 24-bed inpatient Pediatric Service at its Providence Hospital Campus.”
Trinity said it plans to submit the 90-day closure notice required under law to DPH on or about March 31, 2020. After that, DPH can schedule a public hearing to decide if the services are essential. The MNA has proposed legislation to strengthen the state’s hospital closure law.
Trinity’s decision to close 74 mental health beds comes as Gov. Charlie Baker and state lawmakers have been advocating for legislation to increase investment in and access to mental healthcare across Massachusetts.
“For far too long, primary and behavioral health care has not been at the forefront of our health care system,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said upon the introduction of the legislation. “While we know that changing the narrative will take time, we are committed to engaging in a multi-year, multi-pronged approach to create a cohesive system of behavioral health care and strong primary care in the Commonwealth,”
Hospital Executives Close Services Statewide
Hospital corporations such as Trinity Health, Baystate Health, Partners Healthcare, UMass Memorial Health Care and Steward Healthcare have closed at least 30 hospitals or hospital units over the last 11 years. At least 11 of these were deemed “essential services” by the state Department of Public Health, but executives closed them anyway.
Baystate Health is planning to close inpatient mental health beds at community hospitals in Greenfield, Palmer and Westfield, and closed its intensive care units at Noble Hospital and Wing Hospitals. Patients, nurses, advocates and elected officials have come out strongly against the closures.
Tenet Healthcare announced last month it plans to close the medical/surgical service, intensive care unit, operating rooms, emergency department and outpatient rehabilitation service at its Metrowest Medical Center Leonard Morse campus in Natick, including the hospital’s specialized psychiatric unit within the emergency department. DPH has scheduled a public hearing on that closing for March 18 in Natick.
Cambridge Health Alliance has proposed closing its emergency department at Somerville Hospital and turning it into an urgent care clinic. In Taunton, where Steward Healthcare closed its maternity unit in 2017 despite enormous public opposition, mothers have been giving birth under risky and inappropriate conditions because of the loss of those essential services.
Southcoast Health closed the maternity unit at Tobey Hospital in Wareham at the end of 2019.
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.