Baystate revives Holyoke psychiatric hospital plan with new partner

  • Baystate Health has teamed up with Kindred Healthcare to build and operate a $43 million behavioral health hospital in Holyoke that will serve area patients, including those who currently use Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/22/2020 6:29:57 PM

Several months after Baystate Health announced it would not move forward with US HealthVest to build a behavioral health hospital in Holyoke and eliminate three treatment facilities across western Massachusetts, it has entered into a new partnership with Kindred Healthcare to continue its plans.

Hospital officials say if construction goes as planned without any problems and the hospital system moves through the regulatory process without any issues, the new $43 million hospital could be open by fall 2022.

Under Baystate Health’s plan, Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s 22-bed psychiatric unit, also known as East Spoke, would close and patients would be served at the system-wide behavioral health hospital in Holyoke. The plan would also close mental health units at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer once the new facility opens.

Baystate Health announced its original plans with the for-profit organization US HealthVest in early 2019, but the proposal was met with concerns and criticisms from local and state leaders, as well as Baystate Franklin’s local nurses union, which cautioned that such a move could detract from Baystate affiliates serving their local communities.

By last November, Baystate and US HealthVest had decided not to move forward with their partnership, following a Seattle Times investigation that revealed US HealthVest brought to Washington state “a model proven to deliver profits that has routinely failed vulnerable patients.” The investigation detailed patient neglect, fraudulent documentation of care, dangerous staffing levels, and even an assault linked to cost-saving efforts.

However, Baystate Health remains interested in a site for a new behavioral health hospital on Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke, according to Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health.

Keroack said the new 120-bed facility will be “state-of-the-art” and will address the shortage of behavioral health beds throughout the region by increasing patient access for adults, including seniors, adolescents and children by about 50%.

Kindred Healthcare Chief Operating Officer Jason Zachariah said Kindred will bring its clinical experience to Baystate, along with innovation and technology, providing safety and quality to patients. Kindred will manage day-to-day operations, and Baystate’s psychiatrists and advanced practitioners will provide care under the medical leadership of Dr. Barry Sarvet.

The new hospital expects to employ about 200 direct caregivers and ancillary staff. Current staffers working in the system’s different behavioral health units will no longer be Baystate employees when the new hospital opens, Baystate Senior Vice President for Marketing, Communications and External Relations Jane Albert said, but they will have the opportunity to apply for jobs in Holyoke.

Kindred Healthcare’s Senior Vice President Rob Marsh said the partnership with Baystate creates a unique opportunity to expand access to “high-quality” behavioral health services in western Massachusetts.

“Kindred is a leader in treating medically complex and rehab-intensive patients, leveraging partnerships and innovation to enhance care,” Marsh said. “We’re building upon our existing clinical and operational capabilities to address the unmet need for behavioral health services in western Massachusetts.”

Marsh said in January, about 11% of people across the country reported having anxiety or depression, but through the pandemic that has risen to 39%, so there’s a real need for behavioral health care.

“The design of the building considers nurturing, calming and healing for patients and their visitors,” he said.

Sarvet said the behavioral health hospital will treat people’s minds and bodies because they are connected to their health. He said Baystate’s hospitals don’t always have enough psychiatric beds, and they have to endure long wait times or be transported to other hospitals.

Ron Bryant, president of Baystate Franklin and Baystate Noble, said Baystate is working with other agencies to figure out how patients who don’t have transportation from Franklin County to Holyoke will be provided with it.

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