UW psychiatric unit to close after $500 million shortfall

The Seattle facility was operating 10 of its 14 impatient beds before closing.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — The University of Washington Medical Center has announced plans to close its psychiatric facility at its Montlake center in Seattle, lay off employees and reduce the number of available inpatient beds after financial shortfall caused by the coronavirus.

“They are going to officially close the unit,” spokesperson Tina Mankowski said, affecting about 23 employees at the Seven North facility. Seven North closed to patients last month and workers were originally furloughed.

The Washington State Nurses Association issued a statement Friday in response calling for UW Medicine to “reverse course and re-open this facility” because it is “a critical lifeline to all residents experi­encing psycho­log­ical distress.”

The association represents Seven North nurses. Nurse Heather Vargas-Lyon has said layoff negotiations are expected to begin Monday, The Seattle Times reported.

UW Medicine announced last month it faced a $500 million shortfall because of unplanned funds spent on COVID-19 testing and equipment while simultaneously losing millions on elective procedures.

The facility, which serves people who admit themselves voluntarily, was operating 10 of its 14 impatient beds before closing.

“Part of the reason they believe closing Seven North is the right decision is that the cost of operating a unit with the bed capacity of 10 is too high and too expensive,” nurse Caitlin Sellhorn said. “We’re told that 14 is the number that would make us break even. We’re licensed to 14, but they’ve declined to admit that many patients.”

Vargas-Lyon expects the closure of Seven North to lead to more psychiatric patients boarding in restraints in hospital emergency rooms.

There is an expected increase in people struggling with mental health and substance abuse amid the pandemic, financial uncertainty and increasing tensions over racism and injustice, said Jürgen Unützer, professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington.

“We have this crazy combination of clearly increased need, especially in our area, and all of a sudden this giant loss of resources and we have to somehow find our way through this,” he said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Humpback whale hit by Mukilteo ferry, Chip, is presumed dead

The whale, age 3, has not been seen since being struck Monday. His companion was later seen alone.

State: Held up jobless claims to be resolved by end of month

Just under 35,000 people are still waiting for resolution of their claims for unemployment benefits.

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades

An environmental group was disappointed by the decision but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dies

After prison, the Seattle teacher married her former student and they raised two daughters together.

Driver who hit protesters on I-5 charged with 3 felonies

Dawit Kelete, 27, is accused of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving.

11-year-old boy in Yakima shot twice in three days

The second time, his 9-year-old sister was also shot. Both survived.

Siberia wildfire smoke reaches Southcentral Alaska, islands

The wildfire smoke also has been reported in western Oregon and Canada.

3rd victim recovered from plane crash over Lake Coeur d’Alene

2 more bodies have been located at the bottom of the lake. 3 others are still missing.

Two die during Fourth of July celebrations in Skagit County

In one case, a kayaker was hit in the chest by a firework he ignited and fell into the water.

Most Read