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Martinsburg VA Center To Suspend Inpatient Psychiatric Unit Services

April 6th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

On Monday, April 11, the Martinsburg VA Medical Center (VAMC) will temporarily close the inpatient psychiatric unit due to predicted, but unavoidable staff losses.

“We are making arrangements for Veterans who are currently in the psychiatric unit to be transferred to appropriate care medical centers within the VA Capitol Health Care Network or Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 5),” Dr. Jonathan Fierer, chief of staff said. The VISN 5 medical centers that provide these services to our VISN 5 patients are the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, W.Va., the VA Maryland Health Care System in Baltimore, Md. and the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center. Veterans may be placed in non-VA or Department of Defense facilities that provide the most appropriate level of care required.

With the temporary closure of our inpatient unit, the mental health service will be afforded time to realign available staff, continue to recruit and hire additional staff, continue implementation of new outpatient clinic designs, enhance Primary Care Mental Health Integration and implement night and weekend inpatient unit coverage with Advanced Practice Providers,” said Dr. Mark Mann, chief of mental health service. “We plan to take advantage of this temporary closure to complete some infrastructure improvements.”

The medical center plan has been communicated with the VISN leadership, community hospital unit directors, and our union partners for notification, planning, and support purposes. 

This action has occurred primarily due to steady loss of psychiatry staff due to career retirements, medical retirements and resignations. This decision was made to ensure continued high quality and safe patient care for our Veterans. 

In 2014, the Martinsburg facility was staffed by 16 full time psychiatrists; currently this number has dropped to five full time psychiatrists with two additional part time positions. Three psychiatrists may be leaving during April. We have been able to secure seven psychiatrists as part time or fee basis employees, including office and telemedicine.

The medical center leadership team continues to aggressively recruit and interview potential psychiatry candidates. The provision of safety and the highest quality of care is our foremost concern for the Veterans requiring psychiatric care across the complete continuum of mental health services available at our medical center. 

“We anticipate the additional staff to join Team Martinsburg within 30 days, and for this transition, to include possible infrastructure upgrades, to be complete within eight months,” said Mann.

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