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Providence renews contracts with psychiatrists

July 28, 2015

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Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital launches new model of care for behavioral health services

Spokane, WA—Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital and Providence Medical Group, working together with Providence-employed psychiatry physicians, have developed a new model of care for hospital inpatient behavioral health services. As part of this work, five of the seven psychiatrists employed by Providence have renewed their employment contracts to continue caring for patients admitted to the Sacred Heart Psychiatric Department, and several other physicians have indicated an interest.

The new psychiatric model of care provides a team-based approach that includes physicians and psychiatric-nurse practitioners, along with the specially trained psychiatric staff including mental health counselors, registered nurses, nursing assistants and family therapists, among others.

In addition, Providence is leading a community-wide work group to help address the increasing demand for behavioral health services across the region.

In May, psychiatry physicians employed by Providence Medical Group and on staff at Sacred Heart submitted letters of resignation. Providence has been working to provide additional support for the psychiatry physicians in response to increasing demand throughout the region for emergency and inpatient psychiatric services. However, efforts to recruit new psychiatrists to the community has been slow due to a national shortage of these specialists.

The new model of care will allow Providence to continue providing this important service, and over the long-term, significantly improve access to quality behavioral health services.

During the months of August and September, Sacred Heart will transition to the new model of care:

  • The employed psychiatry physicians will transition to a new schedule that continues care to patients in the psychiatry unit and helps manage resources.
  • Inpatient capacity in the psychiatry unit will be reduced gradually from 48 to 12 adult patients, and from 24 to 12 pediatric patients as the new model is implemented. Contingency plans to accommodate patient volumes are in progress.
  • Providence is continuing efforts to recruit additional physicians, including locums (physicians who are employed on a temporary basis) and nurse practitioners, to grow services and increase access to inpatient care.
  • Providence is working collaboratively with community partners including Frontier Behavioral Health, the Resource Services Network (RSN), Kootenai Health, Eastern State Hospital and other regional hospitals to facilitate patient access to care in the most appropriate location during the transition to the new model and while recruiting additional psychiatric providers. Leaders from these behavioral health providers are also exploring together new sustainable solutions to better meet the community’s growing need for mental health services.

“Access to behavioral health services has been an unmet need in the community for years,” says Kirk Rowbotham, MD, chief medical officer of Providence Medical Group – the region’s largest multi specialty group with 700 providers in Spokane and Stevens counties. “Providence remains committed to providing quality inpatient care to patients across the region. By working together with community partners our goal is to expand behavioral health service over time in order to address the growing need for all types of behavioral health services,” he says.

According to Washington State Mental Health Division (SpokaneCares.org), 8 percent of people in Spokane County have a mental illness or serious emotional disturbance, compared to the state average of 5 percent. Nearly 23,000 people in the county have an identifiable mental health condition. In addition, 20-25 percent of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.

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Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital is the second largest in Washington State, with 644 licensed beds. In addition to a 161-bed Children's Hospital—with more than 90 pediatric sub-specialists and a Level IV NICU—the Medical Center features comprehensive cardiac programs, a robotic center for minimally invasive surgery, a certified Stroke Center, inpatient psychiatric care and more. The only Level II Trauma Center in the Inland Northwest, Sacred Heart boasts many services often only found in university settings, including a heart and kidney transplant program, a world-class research department, residency programs and more. Its service area extends to about 1.5 million people, and it is Spokane's largest private employer. (www.shmc.org)

Providence Medical Group (PMG) in Eastern Washington includes 700 physicians and advanced practitioners (physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners) in Spokane and Stevens counties. Its medical staff includes primary care providers, surgical subspecialists and medical specialists. PMG is part of the Providence Health Care network of services, including Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital and Providence Holy Family Hospital– both nationally recognized for quality care, as well as two critical access hospitals in Colville and Chewelah; a comprehensive outpatient medical facility - Providence Medical Park in Spokane Valley; and a full continuum of services including home health, assisted living, adult day health, and skilled nursing care. (www.phc.org)