Psychiatric programs get 60-day reprieve

April 11, 1991|By Diane Winston

The Johns Hopkins Health System announced Tuesday that it would delay for 60 days the scheduled May 12 closing of two community psychiatric programs at Homewood North Hospital. But some hospital employees still worry about the future of the programs' patients.

"My concern is that this is not an answer to the true problem," said Sharon Barolet, a Homewood North employee, referring to the patients' fate when the hospital is finally closed.

"I want Hopkins to make a commitment to maintain services here until a successor can be found to take over the services,"she said.

On Feb. 25, Hopkins officials announced that financial losses over the last few years -- registering more than $5 million as of June 1990 -- and changing patient needs had persuaded them to close Homewood Hospital Center-South, formerly North Charles General Hospital, with its 213 beds for medical and surgical inpatients, and Homewood Hospital Center-North, formerly Wyman Park Hospital, with 75 beds for psychiatric and addiction patients.

State law forbids a hospital from closing overnight and a hearing at the University of Baltimore last night brought out 70-odd community residents, hospital employees, and health care professionals to listen to testimony on the impact Homewood's closing will have on patients and their community.

"Any time there's a change of use there's concern," said Anthony Ambridge, the city councilman whose district includes Charles Village.

"We were told all the patients would be taken care of, which would alleviate a lot of concern, and we hope those commitments will be honored,"he said.

Homewood North has the capacity to treat approximately 1,500 patients with four programs: outpatient psychiatric, day program (which is partial hospitalization for psychiatric patients who go home at night), inpatient and addiction.

Soon after the closing was announced, hospital employees and community residents began lobbying Hopkins officials and governmental agencies about the need to ensure continuity of patient service in the Charles Village neighborhood.

"We are talking about chronically ill patients and patients with substance abuse problems," said Cindy Frey, a hospital employee. "They don't have the resources to go cross-town to another hospital."

Patient advocates were concerned that unless nearby health care facilities were found, there might be an increase in vagrancy, crime and homelessness in Charles Village.

A Hopkins spokesperson said the decision to keep two of the programs open was "to fully explore the possibility of a replacement operator to take over the whole program."

Among the candidates to take over the programs is Union Memorial Hospital, only a few blocks from Homewood-South in Charles Village. Spokespeople at Union Memorial and Hopkins said negotiations between the institutions are under way.

But hospital employees say they are concerned that two of Homewood North's programs will close next month and that the two that stay open until July cannot yet guarantee a future for their patients.

"These are a very fragile, very sick group of people who will be left without services," said Ms. Barolet. "They are tremendously anxious over where their future health care will be."

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