Baystate Franklin may close psych unit

Staff Writer
Published: 2/4/2019 7:23:56 PM

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center might close its 22-bed East Spoke psychiatric unit under a plan by Baystate Health to open a system-wide behavioral health hospital.

In announcing the plan, Baystate Health Monday emphasized the behavioral health system would grow by 30 percent to about 90 beds total, but the Baystate Franklin’s nurses union is cautioning that such a move could detract from Baystate affiliates serving their local communities.

“It’s hugely important that the hospital can serve all the needs of its community and surrounding communities,” Massachusetts Nurses Association spokesman Joe Markman said. “The nurses at Baystate Franklin and community members have been advocating for years to keep care local and have fought to keep services in Greenfield at Baystate Franklin.”

Baystate, through spokeswoman Shelly Hazlett, declined to provide any further details or clarifications regarding the organization’s announcement.

“We’ve got a lot of questions, and that will help shape the conversation going forward,” Markman said. “The nurses we represent will be looking for a lot of these answers and, from there, we’ll figure out what’s best for their communities.”

Springfield-based Baystate doesn’t have a site yet, but the hospital said it could have an announcement within the next few months. A new hospital in its entirety could be at least two years away, Baystate said in its announcement.

If it were located in Springfield or somewhere in Hampden County, the nurses union has questions about patients transportation and ease of access.

“That could have an impact on folks in Greenfield area and northern Franklin County, who need these services and now won’t have them in their vicinity,” Markman said.

Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region Co-chair John Merrigan raised similar concerns about access to necessary treatment.

“The devil is in the details,” Merrigan said. “Historically we’ve advocated for local resources. If, in fact, they move this to Springfield that becomes a barrier.”

At the moment, the hospital is not offering a timeline for the plan that could consolidate its behavioral health services of Baystate Medical Center, Baystate Franklin, Baystate Wing and Baystate Noble.

The hospital would be run in partnership with “US HealthVest, a national company with specialized expertise in inpatient psychiatric care, to build and operate a behavioral health hospital in western Massachusetts,” Baystate said in its release. Markman had concerns about this company running the hospital because it is a for-profit organization.

To the nurses union, this is far from a done deal at the moment.

“This is just finding out what plan Baystate has proposed, and that just starts the process and finding out more details,” Markman said, “and if necessary, fighting to keep care local through whichever avenues are relevant.”

The union just reached a contract with Baystate last May after 18 months of sometimes contentious talks, and Markman noted that the nurses union would have wanted to know about the plan had the hospital known at the time.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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