News & Events

Know the Facts about Trinity Health’s Closure of Psychiatric Beds at Providence Hospital

05.06.2020

Trinity Health – a national hospital corporation with annual revenue of more than $19 billion – is trying to close 74 child and adult mental health beds at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital deemed by the Department of Public Health “necessary for preserving access and health.”

  • Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19. The DPH has warned against COVID-19 overwhelming emergency departments. Acute psychiatric needs are even greater than pre-pandemic because of the amount of trauma experienced by patients, family members and frontline healthcare workers and first responders.
  • This closure was opposed by everyone except Trinity Health. Nurses, healthcare workers, mental health advocates, patients, family members, NAMI Mass and all public officials representing the communities served by this hospital came out against this closure.
  • We call on Gov. Baker to use his authority to immediately halt Trinity’s closure plan. These beds must be kept available for the many patients who need them now and the many more who will need them as this pandemic continues.
  • Emergency departments across the state already are overburdened by mental health patients waiting for beds. Forcing more patients to wait in EDs in Western MA – including at Trinity’s own Mercy Medical Center – means they do not get the care they need, and everyone is put at additional risk for COVID-19 exposure.
  • The way Trinity has responded to COVID-19 has exacerbated the risk associated with closing these beds. Trinity has not provided proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff, has not appropriately isolated COVID-19 positive patients and suspected COVID-19 patients, and has cancelled or laid off staff rather than provide fair redeployment and paid time off protocols.
  • Trinity’s COVID-19 response failures mean that patients receiving inpatient care at Providence could re-enter the community as a result of the closure and spread the virus.
  • Trinity wants to close the only child and adolescent mental health beds from the New York line to Worcester, when children and teens are already waiting excessively long in emergency departments for beds
  • Over 50% of ED child visits of 8 hours or more were related to a mental health condition, according to a 2017 Health Policy Commission report
  • In a 2018 state study, 155 mental health patients waited at least 96 hours in EDs over four months – Half of the patients were children
  • 21% of teenagers arriving at EDs with a behavioral health diagnosis spent more than 12 hours waiting for a bed, according to a 2015 Health Policy Commission report

The child and adolescent beds at Providence actually closed prior to June 30 without notice to DPH and in contradiction to Trinity’s publicly stated plans and its own letter to DPH stating that it would keep the beds open until June 30, according to a notice DPH sent on June 5. “Mercy Medical Center closed the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital child/adolescent unit on May 20, 2020 without notice to the Department,” DPH wrote. “The Department is concerned that the Hospital would discontinue such a unit nine days before submitting a plan which states the patients cared for in this unit would continue to receive care at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital until June 30, 2020.”

     

  • Massachusetts has long been experiencing a mental healthcare crisis. State officials, healthcare providers, advocates and independent researchers have all pointed to the lack of psychiatric beds and the incredible toll that boarding in EDs takes on patients.
  • Behavioral health patients account for 14% of overall ED visits but 71% of ED boarding, according to a 2017 Health Policy Commission report
  • Patients with medical conditions average a 4-hour ED wait while mental health patients average a 16- to 21-hour ED wait, according to a 2017 study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine
  • Between 2004 and 2016, Massachusetts closed more than 300 psychiatric beds. MA ranks 38th nationally in beds per 100,000 population at 8.9 compared to the recommendation of 50
  • Trinity has long planned to close these beds and only seeks to close them because they do not contribute enough to Trinity’s profit margins.
  • As evidence, Trinity has been artificially lowering its census numbers. In 2017, Trinity closed 12 of 24 beds in the child and adolescent psychiatric unit at Providence Hospital for renovations. Trinity has since refused to re-open the beds and instead cut staff who care for children. They did not officially close these beds. They are currently licensed and among those proposed for closure on June 30. Trinity is claiming its census is low on the 74 beds it wants to close, except it already unofficially closed 12 of those beds and has recently been artificially reducing capacity through understaffing.
  • Right now, we need to maximize capacity in emergency departments and other hospitals units because of the COVID-19 pandemic, not decrease services.
  • No hospital should be allowed to close services while receiving enhanced federal and state funding. No healthcare system should be closing mental health beds when our communities face a mental health and public health crisis.
  • When every other stakeholder in Massachusetts agrees we should be making it easier for patients to get high-quality mental healthcare, Trinity Health is going in the opposite direction.
  • Gov. Baker must immediately halt this closure!

 

FPO