Baystate Health reviewing partnership with US HealthVest after Seattle Times investigation

  • Baystate Health has announced it’s reviewing its alliance with US HealthVest, the for-profit company with which it has partnered to build a behavioral health hospital in Holyoke that would mean the closure of the psychiatric unit at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/29/2019 11:58:44 AM

GREENFIELD — Baystate Health has announced it’s reviewing its alliance with US HealthVest, the for-profit company with which it has partnered to build a behavioral health hospital in Holyoke that would mean the closure of Greenfield’s East Spoke psychiatric unit.

The announcement comes following a Seattle Times investigation into US HealthVest, a national behavioral health provider, that states the company brought to Washington state “a model proven to deliver profits that has routinely failed vulnerable patients.” The investigation details patient neglect, fraudulent documentation of care, dangerous staffing levels and even an assault linked to cost-saving efforts.

Baystate Health announced in February its plans to build a behavioral health hospital with US HealthVest in the next two years that would create 30 percent more beds, a total of 90. In addition to East Spoke at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, the proposal would close the mental health units at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer.

Since then, Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) nurses and health-care professionals have joined with community members and elected officials in hopes of preserving the three psychiatric units.

“Our coalition, made up of stakeholders throughout the region, has repeatedly urged Baystate to preserve local inpatient mental health units,” said Donna Stern, a psychiatric nurse at Baystate Franklin and an MNA board member. “Closing them will make it harder for patients to access quality care, recover close to their loved ones and connect with local resources.”

For Stern, the Seattle Times investigation has only confirmed the MNA’s fears. The MNA has called on Baystate Health to dissolve its partnership with US HealthVest following the investigation.

“Now we also know, unfortunately, that many of our concerns about Baystate opening a for-profit facility with US HealthVest were well-founded,” she said. “To think that a corporation would come into our community, open a facility designed to squeeze profits and mistreat patients the way the Seattle Times found US HealthVest did in many hospitals is inconceivable.”

Because of the investigation, a Wednesday press conference to be held at Baystate Health Education Center in Holyoke was cancelled.

The reason for the cancellation, according to Baystate Health’s President and CEO Mark A. Keroack, was “As a result of recently released information, we are conducting a further review of US HealthVest. Our foremost priority is to assure that any partnership is consistent with both our mission and our core goals as an organization: quality care, increased access to critical health services, financial stability and investment in community health.”

As part of its partnership, Baystate Health formed B2 Health LLC with US HealthVest. The new organization registered with the state in November, and then purchased the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority at 45 Lower Westfield Road for $250,000. The purchase received support from both Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and the Holyoke City Council.

One of the reasons Baystate Health officials have opted to close the existing units is because “current community hospital facilities where this care is provided are aging and decentralized. A hospital dedicated to the inpatient needs of behavioral health patients will provide a much-needed resource for the region.”

The potential closure of the 22-bed East Spoke psychiatric unit saw pushback in Greenfield, however, with the Greenfield City Council discussing a resolution to Baystate Health urging it to preserve East Spoke during a June meeting. Residents spoke in favor of passing the resolution, though it was tabled after councilors decided to seek more information from Baystate Health.

“We need this facility for emergencies,” resident Susan Worgaftik said during the June meeting. “They don’t happen between nine and five, they happen because there is need now.”

In the light of the Seattle Times investigation, Stern hopes Baystate Health’s review of its partnership with US HealthVest will result in the alliance being dissolved.

“Baystate should immediately dissolve its partnership and move forward in a way that preserves and improves behavioral health care at its community hospitals,” Stern said. “Every patient deserves dignity, safety and quality care. No patient deserves to suffer because profits came first.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or mbourdeau@recorder.com.




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