We've told you about the attacks on nurses, about patients being
held at the Springfield jail and about the hundreds of hours patients
have spent waiting in emergency rooms for care that won't adequately
address their needs. It's been a long year and a half for the state's
mental health system, Fletcher Allen doctors are fed up. "We need
an intensive care unit for psychiatric patients and we needed it a
year ago," Emergency Department Medical Director, Ray Keller said.
Since Tropical Storm Irene wiped out the Vermont State Hospital in
August of 2011, Ray Keller and other emergency department doctors
have been caring for patients undergoing acute mental health crises.
They often force these patients to wait days, sometimes weeks to be
admitted. "I'm talking about the sickest mental health patients are
spending days in emergency departments waiting for an opening
somewhere for them to be housed," Keller said.
Keller says the state has had a year and a half to solve this
problem, state officials say, other than constructing a new facility
in Berlin which could take up to two years, there's little they can
Interim Mental Health Commissioner Mary Moulton says, "They're
justified certainly at being frustrated by the waits that people are
experiencing." She says emergency rooms are the state's only
option, housing patients elsewhere is against the law. "We're
really saying they need hospital care so to move them to a space
outside of a hospital is not really what we feel is the purview of
the law," Moulton said.
So the state's only option is construction, Moulton adds the
Morrisville facility, which will provide an extra 8 beds, is expected
to open in the coming weeks. That facility should relieve some
waiting time. "We are working really hard I can tell you that to
get things up and running," Moulton said.
For doctor's like Keller, relief can't come soon enough, he says
it's impacting quality of care for all patients, not just those in
need of psychiatric care with no other place to go. "It's stressing
us. It's stressing our staff because we have to have extra staffing
that person is actually taking up a bed that other patients walking
into our emergency department can't use," Keller said.
Moulton says the state will announce the opening date for the
Morrisville facility this week.