Martinsburg VA solves short-staffed issue with reduction in beds

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – The Martinsburg VA Medical Center announced Friday that it will reduce its number of beds in the inpatient psychiatric unit to avoid temporarily closing.

The decision to reduce the number of beds from 19 to eight came after another announcement the center made Wednesday about temporarily closing the unit beginning Monday.

“We thought we were overworking the doctors, but (to temporarily close) was a quick reaction” said Mike McAleer, a public affairs officer for the medical center.

“As we looked at what we could do, because we want to provide quality care for our veterans, we started working through all the possibilities. It was determined that we could at least keep eight beds open.”

The psychiatric unit was down to about four full-time psychiatrists, according to McAleer. When a patient is going to become an inpatient in the unit, a doctor has to be called in for all of the processing regardless of the time.

“We were looking at our staffing levels, and we have to also consider the overnight psychiatrist availability for bringing new patients in,” McAleer said. “It was really starting to take a toll on our doctors.”

In order to keep the unit running when it is short-staffed, McAleer said it will operate on a partial diversion until the end of June, when the staff is expected to increase to 11, possibly 12 full-time employees.

“We will work on transferring those patients who may need to be admitted (during diversion) to other facilities,” McAleer said. “They would probably be transferred to facilities in Washington, D.C., possibly Baltimore, and that’s not at all uncommon.”

Although McAleer said there have been additional staff members recruited for the psychiatric unit, it is a hiring process that will take some time. Until the medical center receives more full-time employees for the unit, it will remain on diversion, according to McAleer.

“We’re really happy that we were able to sit down and work with our partners, staff and leadership to keep those eight beds open and manage them,” McAleer said. “We’re very confident that we have the right staffing for the amount of beds.”

Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/emilykdaniels.

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