Staten Island University Hospital’s proposed closure of inpatient psychiatric services drew community members to a February 29 forum hosted by NYSNA at the College of Staten Island. NYSNA Treasurer Pat Kane, RN, a Staten Island resident, and several of her NYSNA coworkers disputed SIUH administrators’ claim that the closure would be justified due to consistently low census and presented compelling evidence to the contrary.
Ensuring community input
State data show Staten Island has a psychiatric hospitalization rate of 773 per 100,000 — a rate considerably higher than the citywide average of 664 per 100,000. Furthermore, the borough’s suicide rate has risen 5% since 2013; its death rate from drug overdoses is the highest in the city; and it has the highest rate of youth substance use of opioids and other prescription drugs in all of New York City.
Community member Paul Scublinsky said he fears that the closure would limit Staten Islanders access care: “If we lose our only inpatient psychiatric unit, how are we going to attract psychiatrists to this community?”
Richmond University Medical Center has the only other inpatient psychiatric unit on the north side of the island. The census in its 65-bed inpatient psychiatric unit is consistently high, and nurses there regularly report short-staffing and over-crowding.
“When these kinds of decisions are made, the community has a right to be informed and have their say,” said Ms. Kane. The proposal cannot advance without Certificate of Need approval from the NYS Department of Health. NYSNA members will be working with other healthcare professionals, political groups, the Legal Aid Society and the West African immigrant community to ensure that the mental health needs of Staten Island residents are given primacy in the Department of Health’s decision on SIUH’s proposal.