New York hospitals struggle to reopen psychiatric beds amid staff shortages

New York hospitals are struggling to reopen hundreds of psychiatric beds by the governor's April 1 deadline, Politico reported March 23.

Hospitals cite staffing shortages, inadequate funding and suicide risk as contributing factors to the delay. In several cases, hospitals converted psychiatric beds into medical and surgical units during the pandemic, which included installing new infrastructure such as electrical and gas lines. These lines pose a hanging risk for psychiatric patients.

"We cannot simply re-open the unit as a psychiatry unit as reconfiguring the rooms requires very significant time and expense," Manish Sapra, MD, executive director of Northwell Health’s behavioral health service line, wrote in the plan shared with Politico. She also said the hospital permanently reassigned the psych unit's staff during the pandemic and it would take nine months to a year to hire at least 60 new staff.

NYC Health + Hospitals described a similar issue. It expects to reopen 179 of its 253 beds by the end of the year, and the rest will not be ready until December 2024 according to Politico.

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