SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health officials are excited to move forward with plans for a standalone inpatient behavioral health hospital, likely in Holyoke.
But the health system reiterated Tuesday that development of the $43 million, 120-bed facility will mean the closures of inpatient psychiatric units in Greenfield, Westfield and Palmer.
Baystate and newly announced partner Kindred Healthcare hosted a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon that included Dr. Barry D. Sarvet, chairman of Baystate’s department of psychiatry, who acknowledged the new hospital will come at the price of closing those regional units.
Sarvet said transporting patients can be accomplished. That’s something Baystate does every day among its facilities.
What will be more difficult, he said, is making sure patients do not lose their connections with their families and their communities.
“Families are important agents of change,” he said. “They need to be involved in the treatment. Patients live with their families.”
Telemedicine will help, but it won’t be a substitute for in-person visits among families, patients and clinicians.
Ronald Bryant, president of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, said that facility is already working, and was working pre-pandemic, on microtransit and other transportation programs.
It’s not going to be enough, said Donna Stern, a full-time registered psychiatric nurse at Baysate Franklin and a senior co-chair and member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The union has opposed the Baystate plan, saying sacrificing the regional psychiatric units is too high a price to pay.
Franklin County is the poorest in the state and many have trouble with transportation, Stern said.
“If you ask any of the patients, do you want a fancy new room or do you want to have care in your community, they will say they want to have care in their community,” she said.