Divine Providence Hospital's hehavioral health unit recently began serving increasing numbers of people in need of inpatient care.
With the closing in June of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital's behavioral health unit in Wellsboro, inpatient services now are being consolidated at Divine Providence, according to Susquehanna Health officials.
"Consolidating our inpatient behavioral health unit is a regional approach to ensure patient access for those who need inpatient services," said Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital President Janie Hilfiger. "Outpatient behavioral health services will continue to be offered through five Laurel Health Center locations while we transfer inpatient care to a facility in our system that has both the expertise and capacity to accommodate our community's needs."
Divine Providence Hospital has a licensed 21-bed inpatient unit for adults and a 10-bed older adult inpatient unit designed to meet the unique needs of patients over the age of 60.
The consolidation was prompted by the departure of a psychiatrist from Wellsboro.
"We did not make this decision based on cost," Susquehanna Health spokeswoman Tracie Witter said when asked. "We wanted to use an existing service line, and we have not been able to hire a new provider for Tioga County. We continue to care for these patients and see this as an opportunity to send them from Tioga County to Divine Providence Hospital, which has the expertise and capacity to accommodate the unique needs of behavioral health patients."
Witter said recruiting a specialist to lead a behavioral unit in a rural community is a challenging effort. She noted the "significant shortage" nationwide of psychiatrists.
"It's clear that we can meet the needs of the broader community by working together, which was the goal of a community hospital such as Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital affiliating with Susquehanna Health," she said.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital is ensuring supervised ambulance transportation to Williamsport for treatment.
An average of 33 people a month were seen as inpatients in that hospital's behavioral health unit.
"We can handle the capacity with our current complement of beds at Divine Providence Hospital," Witter said.
Four behavioral health coordinator positions were created to work out of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital's emergency department to assess patients and facilitate transfers to Divine Providence Hospital beds.
The closing of the behavioral health unit means the loss of jobs for 19 people. However, officials noted that Susquehanna Health's human resources department is assisting those people to seek other open positions within the health system.