Mercy Medical Center has decided to close its psychiatric care unit. The hospital said its facility is under-used and the services can be found at other area hospitals.
Mercy Medical Center will close its inpatient behavioral health unit — psychiatric care — in mid February.
The change means patients who must be hospitalized for psychiatric services will be sent to Aultman Hospital or another area hospital for treatment.
About 20 Mercy employees will be affected by the move. Some of them will be able to apply for other jobs at Mercy.
“It is difficult to make changes like this and we recognize their impact,” Thomas E. Cecconi, Mercy president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are very proud of the long legacy of Mercy’s patient care in behavioral health and recognize the contributions of those caregivers and support staff.”
The move — set for Feb. 15 — upset Dr. Suresh Patel, chairman of the unit. Patel said he heard about the move in a meeting called Monday morning.
“It’s a shock. It’s a loss for the community,” Patel said of the decision. “We never had a talk about completely closing the psychiatric unit.”
Hospital officials said the decision follows a review of operations as Mercy prepares “to meet the demands of the new national health care environment.”
UNDER USED SERVICES
While evaluating operations the hospital studied what it viewed as under used services to determine if patient needs could be met at other community facilities. The review led to the decision to close the psychiatric care unit.
Mercy determined that patients can get psychiatric care service at Aultman or facilities in Summit County.
Patel countered that the decision caused an inconvenience for patients who prefer Mercy Medical Center over other facilities. He noted that Mercy provides psychiatric services to many residents from outside the area, including communities south of Stark County where the services aren’t available.
Patel also wonders how patients suffering other ailments but in need of psychiatric care will receive treatment.
Mercy plans to provide psychiatric consult services when requested. Hospital officials said it will treat patients with behavioral health problems in the emergency room. Patients who need to be hospitalized will be transferred to the most appropriate facility.
The psychiatric care floor will be used for other purposes. Mercy plans to “re-deploy resources to further advance patient care in other areas and to further advance processes for quality and patient satisfaction initiatives, which are essential in the new environment that is part of health care reform,” according to the statement.
Patel said Mercy has provided psychiatric care since 1929 as part of efforts to provide well rounded patient care. But the unit has been shrinking over the years and in recent months the number of patients in the unit had dropped.
“With the advancement of medications and outpatient therapies in behavioral health care, great effort is now being made to care for patients without hospitalizing them,” Cecconi said.
Page 2 of 2 - Patel agrees that improved medications have led to better care and shorter hospital stays for patients, but doesn’t believe that justifies closing Mercy’s unit.
“Stark County residents are losing something important to the community,” Patel said.