News & Events

During June 29 State House Rally to Save Providence Hospital Mental Health Beds, Nurses and Coalition to Call on Gov. Baker to Immediately Halt Trinity Health Closure Plan

06.25.2020

In new letter, DPH expressed concern Trinity did not disclose an early closure of child beds that contradicted the hospital’s own plan sent to DPH saying the beds would remain open until June 30

BOSTON, Mass. – A diverse coalition, including nurses represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, patients, families and advocates will gather outside the State House in Boston on June 29 to protest Trinity Health’s plan to eliminate 74 pediatric and adult psychiatric beds at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital and call on Gov. Charlie Baker to immediately halt the closure because of public health concerns.

Trinity plans to permanently close the beds on June 30 even though they were deemed “necessary for preserving access and health” by the Department of Public Health and Trinity is a billion-dollar corporation receiving millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 reimbursement money. Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19 and should not allow a hospital service recognized by his own health agency as necessary close during the pandemic.

The child and adolescent beds 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.”

“The fact that this corporation refuses to listen to a huge chorus of nurses, patients, families, elected officials and so many other people crying out to save these beds proves that profits really do matter more than mental health to Trinity Health,” said Cindy Chaplin, an RN of 42 years at Providence Hospital and co-chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee. “There is no more critical time than now – during a global pandemic and mental health crisis – for Gov. Baker to step in and halt the closure of these essential beds.”

State House Rally Details

Date: Monday, June 29

Time: 11 a.m.

Location: Outside the front of the State House on Beacon Street

Details: A socially distanced event with a diverse coalition calling on Gov. Baker to halt the Providence Hospital closure. Speakers include:

  • Donna Stern, psychiatric RN and MNA senior co-chair at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield
  • Donna Kelly-Williams, RN and MNA President
  • Father Marc Fallon of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Labor Guild
  • Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke
  • U.S. Senator Edward Markey

Read more at www.massnurses.org/TrinityFacts.

In Massachusetts and across the country, our society has recognized that mental health should be treated equally with other forms of healthcare. In 2008, Congress passed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) to ensure equal coverage of treatment for mental illness and addiction.

Gov. Baker advocated on Beacon Hill earlier this year for a 30% increase in investment in primary and behavioral healthcare. “Behavioral health has been the stepchild of the health system,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders in introducing the bill last fall. “It is time to implement parity ... and treat behavioral health equitably with physical health.”

Strengthening Hospital Closure Law

MNA nurses and healthcare professionals have been advocating to strengthen Massachusetts hospital closure law because corporations like Trinity Health can shut down services despite enormous opposition and evidence the services are necessary. Legislation to increase enforcement around closures and give the public more of a voice, An Act Relative to the Closing of Hospital Essential Services (S. 672/H. 1139), is pending on Beacon Hill.

“The decision by Trinity Health to eliminate 74 child and adult psychiatric beds even though this will erect huge barriers to access for underserved populations is a stark example of why the law needs to be changed,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric RN and MNA senior co-chair at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, and a member of the MNA Board of Directors. “Every other stakeholder came out forcefully against this closure, and yet Trinity barreled ahead. When it is blatantly clear that profits are coming before patients, we must act to protect our communities from corporate greed.”

Peter Arno, a health economist who works with the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that hospital closures and consolidation have been exacerbated by the pandemic. He also noted that one-third of all government health care dollars go to hospitals. And yet, despite that public funding and the essential local services those hospitals provide, government officials often have little to no power to stop a closure, Arno told the newspaper

“It sounds ridiculous and outrageous that the government has no authority to do anything about providing essential services to their community,” Arno said. “This is one of the failings of our current system. Because the system is so based on profit … the people, the communities and their representatives have less and less influence on the services that are available to them.”

An Act Relative to the Closing of Hospital Essential Services (S. 672/H. 1139) will:

  • Extend the official notice period to the DPH in advance of a closure or discontinuation of health services.
  • Require any hospital proposing closure or discontinuation of health services to provide evidence of having notified and provided the opportunity for comment from affected municipalities before the notification period begins.
  • Instruct the Attorney General to seek an injunction to maintain the essential services for the duration of the notice period.
  • Prohibit the hospital from eligibility for an application for licensure or expansion for a period of three years from the date the service is discontinued, or until the essential health service is restored, or until such time as the DPH is satisfied with a modified plan.

Learn more about this legislation and hear from nurses who testified about the bill during a hearing last year: https://bit.ly/2VcpkpV.

FPO