The University of Washington Medical Center has shut down the in-patient psychiatric unit, without committing to a timeline to reopen it. At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is raising concerns about the psychological well-being of so many of our residents, during the month set aside for Mental Health Awareness, the UW is denying needed care by shutting down this unit.
In addition to serving the needs of all persons needing mental health assistance in our community, this unit also serves women with high-risk pregnancies, transplant patients and University of Washington students struggling with mental health issues. No other inpatient psychiatric unit in the state offers these services to inpatient pregnant women. The unit supports UWMC transplant patients on site. And it offers supportive, voluntary inpatient services to students steps away from UW dormitories.
This closure has reignited concerns that UWMC will close the inpatient psychiatric unit permanently. These fears are not unfounded. In April 2018, the UW Medical Center threatened to shut this psychiatric unit down, citing the drain of resources needed to make upgrades required by regulatory agencies. In delaying the closure, UW Medicine said that it would be opening 12 new beds at the Northwest campus – a transitional step that did not fully address nurses’ concerns that the new beds would not be as accessible for UW students and concerns that new beds wouldn’t address the needs of the patient populations currently served.
WSNA calls on UW Medicine to reopen the inpatient psychiatric unit, 7 North, as soon as possible. Shutting down inpatient psychiatric services at this moment in time represents a short-term cost cut that would deny much needed psychiatric care to some of our most vulnerable community members – pregnant women, transplant patients and students – at a time when the mental health strain of the coronavirus pandemic makes it even more necessary.