Cedars-Sinai Medical Center will close its in-patient and outpatient psychiatry programs over the next year, a move prompted by significant shifts in the healthcare system, hospital officials said.
The decision, which was announced Wednesday, was driven by hospital finances and changes to the delivery and organization ofhealthcare services nationwide.
"We are undergoing a massive transformation," said Mark Gavens, the chief operating officer. "It is natural for an organization to focus on what it does well and what it will continue to need to do well to serve the community."
Patients will gradually transition to other facilities, while the hospital will retain psychiatric services in the emergency room, cancer center and other clinical areas, officials said.
The planned closure is the latest in a long series of reductions in mental health services across the state. California has roughly 6,500 acute in-patient psychiatric beds, down from 8,500 in 1996, according to the California Hospital Assn. There have also been significant cutbacks in Medi-Cal funding for mental health services statewide.
"What hospitals across California are grappling with are serious financial challenges that are unrelenting," said Jan Emerson-Shea, spokeswoman for the association. "It is causing hospitals across the state to look at what services they can continue to provide and what services they can't."
Randall Hagar, director of government affairs for the California Psychiatric Assn, said the situation across the state is "less than ideal" for both doctors and patients.
"The patients who need psychiatric services are stacking up at the door and having a hard time getting in," Hagar said. "It's getting tough out there."
Hagar said that even with a long transition, patients suffer when care is disrupted. "It takes a long time to build a trusting relationship with somebody, for instance, who has a psychotic disorder," he said.
Cedars-Sinai plans also to phase out its psychiatry residency program. Arrangements will be made for current residents to finish their training either at Cedars or other institutions.
Many of the mental health professionals now working in public and private institutions in Los Angeles County were trained at Cedars-Sinai, said Roderick Shaner, medical director for the county Department of Mental Health.
"Cedars has a long history of providing mental health services and training in Los Angeles," he said. "It really was a fine program."
Shaner said he didn't expect the program changes to have a tremendous effect on mental health services in the county. Cedars-Sinai is licensed for 51 inpatient beds but had a daily occupancy of 17 patients in October.
In an attempt to make a smooth transition, Cedars-Sinai plans to award $1.5 million in grants to organizations in the community that provide mental health services so they can expand the number of patients they see.
Along with other healthcare providers, the nearby Saban Free Clinic plans to work with Cedars-Sinai to make sure that patients continue to get the services they need, said Abbe Land, co-chief executive officer. Land said she believed the gradual end to the programs will minimize any disruption.
"The world of healthcare is very complicated right now and there are a lot of changes," she said. Land added that those changes should be done carefully and thoughtfully because they "impact people's lives."