Staffing shortages are making it challenging to care for patients in need of mental healthcare.
PHOENIX — A lack of staffing is causing Valleywise Health, one of the Valley’s largest mental health providers for inpatient psychiatric care, to close 118 of its beds across the company’s three behavioral health locations.
Adequate staffing is a concern throughout the country with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a massive ripple effect in healthcare delivery as many frontline medical workers have left the profession.
“Even with the shortages over the years that people have talked about, I think this is probably the worst that anybody could experience,” Valleywise Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Sherry Stotler said.
“Traditionally, if you have somebody leave, at least you’d have somebody to interview. Right now, we are not seeing those high numbers to interview; so, if you have three or four people leave, you’re not seeing three or four people right behind them.”
Valleywise has 433 licensed beds and has had to systematically close beds due to staffing shortages. They are currently only able to staff between 270 and 290 beds across its three centers.
The majority of the patients experience a serious mental crisis and are court-ordered for care.
“Court-ordered patients come to us or other facilities or programs designated by the court or a care manager for the patient,” Dr. Stotler said. “A high percentage of court-ordered patients initially enter our facilities to stabilize, then transition to the next level of care.”
Dr. Stotler says the hospital is still using travel nurses for non-psychiatric care, but finding supplemental staffing for behavioral health remains a challenge.
“Every day, you’re more and more worried about how you’re going to build that team for the future,” Dr. Stotler said.
Other Valley healthcare systems are not immune to challenges with staffing beds. Banner Health, the state’s largest healthcare provider has 354 inpatient acute behavioral health beds in Arizona. 288 of those are in the Valley and another 66 are in Tucson.
Banner is also experiencing shortages.
“The main reasons have to do with the overall employment landscape post-pandemic, and additional Behavioral Health systems opening new locations/beds, creating more competition for the limited supply of behavioral health staff in the Valley,” said a Banner spokesperson. “At the present time, we have around 36 openings.”
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