St. Vincent to open psych unit in downtown Worcester
By Lee Hammel
WORCESTER — St. Vincent Hospital announced today that it will create an acute psychiatric inpatient unit with 13 beds on its downtown campus.
The unit will open in April. It also will earmark four such beds for Central Massachusetts residents at the Natick campus of the Metro West Medical Center, which, like St. Vincent, is owned by Vanguard Health Systems.
The announcement is a relief to those concerned by St. Vincent's announcement in April that it was going to close the 15 acute psychiatric beds on its old Vernon Hill Campus. That campus has been sold by St. Vincent and is slated for demolition.
“We are thrilled that we can continue to provide psychiatric services to the most vulnerable in our community. The addition of adult psychiatric beds at Saint Vincent Hospital allows us to continue to build upon the rich tradition we have already established while continuing to meet community need,” said Erik G. Wexler, president of the New England market for Vanguard Health Systems and president and chief executive officer of Saint Vincent Hospital.
In its announcement in April about the closing of psychiatric beds on Vernon Hill, St. Vincent said that Athol Memorial Hospital would open a 10-bed locked adult psychiatric inpatient unit and St. Vincent would open a 10-bed geriatric psychiatric unit in an open ward at its downtown campus.
Since then, a plan for Vanguard to acquire the 25-bed Athol Memorial Hospital has fallen through. That put the plan to open a psychiatric unit on hold, according to James W. Meehan, Athol Memorial acting CEO.
Officials of Athol Memorial and Heywood Hospital in Gardner, which are pursing a plan to affiliate, could not be reached for comment today.
St. Vincent officials said today that “timing and unanticipated constraints made the original plan with Athol Memorial Hospital unfeasible. As a result, the hospital has decided to use the space planned for the new gero-psychiatry program on the main campus to relocate the adult inpatient acute psychiatry from the Vernon Hill facility.”
The Massachusetts Nurses Association hailed the announcement today. “We applaud the decision,” said David Schildmeier, MNA communications director. “It's something we've been advocating for well over a year.”
He said, “This is a very important development for those suffering from mental illness in Massachusetts, as this will preserve psychiatric beds at a time when there is a dramatic and dangerous shortage of those beds.”
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