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Staffing crisis forces 5 Virginia mental hospitals to temporarily close

Hospital Hallway
Posted at 6:16 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 18:16:45-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- Following an uptick in injuries to staff members and patients inside state-run mental hospitals in Virginia since July 1, five of the eight hospitals temporarily closed on Friday.

Since the beginning of the month, 63 injuries have been reported.

Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County is currently at its capacity, with all 166 beds occupied. They were one of the five hospitals to have admissions temporarily halted.

At the root of the issue is the ratio between staff to patients.

"The state's psychiatric hospitals have been dealing with census challenges and census pressure for quite some time," Julian Walker with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said.

A letter from Commissioner Alison Land with Behavioral Health and Developmental Services noted the following regarding the situation:

The level of dangerousness is unprecedented and recent admissions are occurring in an environment that is no longer adequately staffed.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association represents 110 hospitals across Virginia.

"We all share the same goal which is to ensure the patient in the Commonwealth gets the care they need," Walker said.

Walker said that VHHA members understand what is currently happening.

"Some of the issues they're experiencing are also being experienced by our members in the private hospital community," Walker said.

VHHA is now offering help to the state amid the current crisis.

"One of our members has said, you know, if you can provide some modest funding then we can open up 58 psychiatric beds for both, some would be for juvenile or pediatric patients and some would be adult patients," Walker said.

VHHA said that funding for those beds is already in the state's coffers from the state's American Recovery Act Stimulus relief fund.

"$8.5 million to provide support to staff 58 beds," Walker said.

VHHA points out that their members work with the majority of psychiatric patients.

"Our members continue to, on an annualized basis, accept the majority of both voluntary and involuntary psychiatric placements for inpatient hospitalizations," Walker said.

Walker said that the state has not responded to their offer over the weekend of support, which they also offered last month.

He said that VHHA is currently surveying members to see if more beds could be opened up if funding was provided.

The state says that they are working to stabilize staffing throughout their system so additional beds can be reopened as soon and as safely as possible.

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