Mental patients strain ERs
Failure of Ga. mental health hospitals creates backlog
As the result of the crisis in the state’s psychiatric hospitals, Newton Medical Center’s emergency room has become very crowded of late as mental health patients wait for placement in Atlanta.
On a recent Thursday night, 13 mental health patients were in the ER at the same time waiting for placement at the Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta, the state mental health hospital where patients from metro Atlanta are typically sent if they do not have the insurance to pay for a private care facility.
“This is a new phenomenon for our emergency department and it requires taking up beds for these mental health patients,” said Barbara Valentine, NMC assistant administrator in charge of patient care services.
Valentine said a backlog in the number of mental health patients throughout the Atlanta area waiting for beds to become available at GRH has resulted in NMC having to hold mental health patients much longer than they would normally.
“We are certainly not a mental health facility. We do not have the resources,” Valentine said. “We are very interested in making sure that their care is safe but the sooner we can get them out of here, the better it is for that patient.”
The overflowing of NMC’s emergency department has been spurred by the much publicized failure of the state’s mental health hospitals, which are now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department for a large number of patient deaths over the years that were first brought to light