National Report Card Shows Need for Psychiatric Bed Reporting System

A shortage of psychiatric beds across the state was cited as a key concern in the American College of Emergency Physicians’ National Report Card on Emergency Care issued on Jan. 16, 2014, in which Pennsylvania received a C+.

This issue is also of great concern to Pennsylvania physicians, who voted at the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) annual House of Delegates meeting in October 2013 to endorse the development of a voluntary shared bed tracking system for behavioral health and detoxification.

During a Jan. 16, 2014, media call-in hosted by PAMED, the PA Chapter of the American College of Emergency Medicine and the PA Psychiatric Society, more than a dozen reporters from media outlets across the state listened to physicians’ concerns.

The demand for behavioral health services on an acute basis has been skyrocketing at the same time as funding for community resources such as long-term behavioral health facilities has been shrinking,” said Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of PAMED.

“Quite often, psychiatric patients experiencing a health problem will end up in the emergency department,” said Dr. MacLeod in a news release. “It is not unusual for a psychiatric patient to spend hours in the emergency department.”

The Pittsburgh emergency physician also said that “if a tracking system could be developed to let us know where beds are available, then we could get these patients to the right treatment environment in a timely, patient-focused manner.”

“As psychiatric resources for these patients are diminishing, the emergency department has become a place that patients can go to receive access to the care that they require,” said Kristen Sandel, MD, an emergency physician from Reading and the Young Physicians Section trustee on the PAMED board.

“It is extremely important that we provide the care that these patients need and deserve, in a setting that is most appropriate for them.”

This issue was brought to PAMED’s attention by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Medicine and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society.

PAMED is encouraging key stakeholders in Pennsylvania, including the state Department of Health and the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, to work together to develop a real-time voluntary reporting system of available psychiatric and substance abuse beds by region.