MHP announces closing of Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry Department
It is with heavy hearts that the Mahaska Health Partnership Board of Trustees announces the closing of the Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry (IGP) Department, effective March 31.
IGP, formally called Vision Quest, opened in 2003 as an eight-bed unit specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of complex mental health problems in senior adults. According to MHP CEO Jay Christensen, IGP has continued to provide excellent care, but a lot has changed since opening.
“I was here and helped open the unit 15 years ago and it was the right thing to do,” Christensen said. “This has been a very difficult decision, but the hard reality is that in today’s healthcare environment, closing the unit is the right thing to do.
“Changes in payment, particularly by Medicare Advantage plans, have been the single largest financial issue for the unit. They have some standard expectations for preadmission and continued stay reviews, but many of their requirements did not allow for the appropriate treatment of geriatric psychiatry patients. We have seen the care required for these patients increase, while the payments continued to decrease. That is a trend that is very difficult to sustain over the long haul.”
Christensen said that in the last year, only 16% of the IGP patients were from Mahaska County. He said administration and the board of trustees recognize that mental health services are a state and national issue and that eventually, legislators will have to come to terms with how they fund this vital service.
“This issue is larger than Mahaska County, and as a county hospital, part of our fiduciary responsibility is to ensure we can best provide care for the services consistent with our mission over the long term,” Christensen stressed.
According to Christensen, it was also getting more difficult for staff to find a transferring facility for this population after they no longer need the intensive mental health services provided by IGP. “As an example, we have had several patients over the past three years where the write off cost after they were no longer medically necessary for psychiatric services but unable to be placed in a more appropriate setting exceeded $100,000 each.”
The closing of IGP will allow local psychiatrists Ron Berges, DO, and Eric Boyum, MD, more time to spend with their outpatients at MHP Behavioral Health Services. Christensen said that MHP provides a strong outpatient mental health and substance abuse service. In addition to Drs. Berges and Boyum, MHP has psychiatric nurse practitioners and more than 10 counselors to help meet the mental health and substance use issues in the region.
Christensen said the staff at IGP has been committed to serving the unique healthcare needs of this population and their service is greatly appreciated. “We certainly recognize the hard work and dedication they have given to provide this service. Due to the nature of healthcare provided, patients could be physically and verbally challenging and staff continued to provide services in a compassionate and understanding manner.
“We are proud of the services provided by the staff at IGP, and about a dozen staff members will be affected by the unit’s closing. We have offered them the opportunity to apply for other positions at MHP and will do all we can to assist them.”