Nurses Push Back on Closing of Psychiatric Unit at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center; Say Promises Broken
Lynchpin of Geriatric Psychiatric Care Threatened
Brooklyn – The New York State Nurses Association is outraged and organizing in response to the recent announcement that the Adult/Geriatric Psychiatric Unit at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center is slated to close next month.
The Kingsbrook Jewish Adult/Geriatric Psychiatric Unit was a core part of the One Brooklyn Health project, opened in 2016 to meet community healthcare needs. The facility is critically important for geriatric psychiatric care, serving elderly patients for 20 years and drawing patients from nursing homes in Queens and the Rockaways, as well as from Upstate New York. The continuity of geriatric psychiatric care was explicitly promised in the One Brooklyn Health plan. Nurses charge that One Brooklyn is now going back on their word.
“When One Brooklyn was founded, this psychiatric unit was among those listed in the agreement. That’s because it is a vital geriatric psychiatric care unit and was to remain. What we’re being told now constitutes a clear broken promise and a breach of a guarantee of the public’s health.” – Vivienne Phillips, RN and Chair, NYSNA’s Executive Committee at KJMC.
The closing comes in the aftermath of a shocking number of nursing home patient deaths in New York City during an ongoing pandemic. Black and brown communities would be adversely affected by the closing, in particular. Fully 65 percent of psychiatric discharges at Kingsbrook Jewish were among patients of color, according to the most recent data. The closing exacerbates already sharp disparities in care prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic among Black and brown New Yorkers.
Overall, inpatient mental health services have precipitously declined in metro NYC during the pandemic, with closures at New York Presbyterian-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, to NY-P’s Allen Hospital on Washington Heights, and at Syosset Hospital/Northwell Health on Long Island. The burden of closings often falls on safety net hospitals. But when safety nets like Kingsbrook Jewish close inpatient units, patients most in need are too often stranded without care.
“The psych unit is very necessary. Not only do we serve the community, but patients from around the city and Upstate are sent here for treatment. The geriatric psych offered in the unit provides very specialized care for the elderly with serious psychiatric illnesses. Those caring for the elderly — whether at home or in a nursing home — understand what’s at stake. We are committed to our patients and will do whatever it takes to keep the unit open.” – Salina Flores, RN
One Brooklyn Health claims the closing is a result of psychiatrists leaving the unit and that their replacements were needed to keep the unit open. NYSNA, public health experts and community advocates are offering to help locate qualified psychiatrists to fill this void.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, visit nysna.org.