HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey was in Holyoke Sunday, to support nurses protesting a proposal to reduce the patient capacity of the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital.

“Take care of us and take care of our patients. and start doing the right thing.”

That’s how nurses are feeling about the possibility of losing their patients and their jobs at Trinity Health of New England’s Providence Behavioral Health Hospital.

Their plan would eliminate 74 psychiatric beds, and that would result in more than 200 layoffs. Senator Ed Markey is standing with the affected nurses and voiced why he’s against this proposal.

We should not be cutting back on the number of beds. We should be expanding on the number of beds. We have families who are going to be dramatically, negatively impacted by this decision.

Senator Ed Markey

The reason for this proposal is simply that the hospital doesn’t have enough psychiatrists so they’d be moving the patients to other hospitals in New England. But Senator Markey and nurses are concerned about the impact this will have on family members.

“We know we work the lines, we work direct care, we work with all these patients. They are scared,” said Tracey Ellithorpe, a nurse at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. “They don’t want to go to hospitals that are so much farther away.”

Cindy Chaplin, a nurse and Unit Chair at the hospital, said many nurses don’t believe Trinity Health has been actively looking to fill the psychiatrist positions.

“We talk to a psychiatrist all the time and they say ‘oh no one has asked me,'” Chaplin told 22News. “I have friends who would come and take a job. So unfortunately, I don’t think they did their due diligence.”

According to Senator Markey, the state has deemed the hospital as essential and he’s going to urge Governor Baker to step in and stop the hospital from closing their psychiatric beds.

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22News contacted Trinity Health and they sent us a statement on why they made this proposal for the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital.

The full statement reads,

We respect and appreciate Senator Markey’s position. Unfortunately, the shortage of psychiatrists has reached a critical point, preventing our future ability to provide safe, quality care to our patients.

The shortage of inpatient psychiatric care providers is a serious, nationwide problem, making it a challenge that is not unique to us or our area. Despite comprehensive recruitment efforts, we have not been able to secure board-certified psychiatrists available for hire or long-term placement at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. Additionally, staffing inpatient psychiatric units solely with temporary or per diem physicians is not a sustainable model of care because it forces us to make decisions as to whether we can safely provide care on a week-to-week or even day-to-day basis—which is disconcerting for patients, staff, and the community as such staffing could be detrimental to patient safety and quality.

We will continue to work with the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health on plans to help patients access care after inpatient psychiatric services at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital are discontinued.

Trinity Health of New England