Answering a critical need

Over the last two decades I have had the great pleasure of serving as an attending physician in all five of our emergency departments. These emergency departments, as well as many others throughout our region, serve as safety nets for the communities we live in.  One of them, the emergency department at the University Campus, is different than all the others. The University Campus emergency department serves both as a local safety net and the clinical backup for smaller, less comprehensive emergency departments in the region. Today, this important community resource is being severely challenged in its ability to fulfill its mission to those who depend on it.

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The Emergency Department at the University Campus of UMass Memorial Medical Center is the backup for hospitals throughout Central Massachusetts.

The University Campus emergency department is the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center.  It also serves as the region’s tertiary referral center for pediatrics, stroke patients and cardiovascular emergencies. Every day the sickest patients from around the region are transferred to the University Campus emergency department and, working in cooperation with the transferring hospitals, our caregivers labor to provide the best care possible to them. It is critical that we have the necessary capacity at the University Campus to accept transfers from other hospitals and right now we are frequently challenged to do so.

The University Campus faces an almost daily challenge of too few beds for large numbers of critically ill people waiting to be transferred. This creates potential patient safety issues not only on the University Campus but also across Central Massachusetts. We believe the best way to address this issue is to add more medical-surgical beds at the University Campus.

For the reasons noted above, Patrick Muldoon, the Medical Center president, and I have made the difficult decision to close 13 beds on 8 East – our University Campus inpatient psychiatry unit – to make room for 18 new medical-surgical beds. Strengthening our resolve in making this decision is the availability of new resources for patients requiring inpatient psychiatric services. Specifically, 16 new beds have recently opened in Webster through Harrington HealthCare and a new 102-bed facility named TaraVista recently opened in Ayer. In addition, there is a new 150-bed inpatient psychiatry facility opening soon in Westborough.

To assure that we continue to appropriately serve the needs of our medically complicated psychiatric patients, which after careful study averages a daily census of 6-8 patients, we will maintain 14 medical-psychiatric beds on 8 East and invest in the renovation of that space to make it more appropriate for the needs of these patients and their caregivers.

Deciding to close psychiatric beds was not an easy decision and we hope you understand that we did so only after a careful and thoughtful process with the best interests of our community at heart.

You can find additional information here.

Thanks for taking great care of our patients and one another,

Eric