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For the week of February 21 through 27, 2001

Inpatient psychiatric room would cost $1 million

Express Staff Writer

In wide-ranging press conference at St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center on Thursday, hospital administrator Jon Moses said an "inpatient psychiatric" room would cost approximately $750,000 to $1 million a year.

Dr. Keith Sivertson, St. Lukeís Wood River Medical Center director of emergency care, explains hospital procedures during a press conference Thursday.

Moses was reluctant to use the term "crisis bed," favored by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), because, he said, he doesnít know "what a crisis bed in Idaho means."

He said that in the "confusion that has raged for months," terms like crisis bed and safe room have been used interchangeably.

He added that in Idaho, the medical community doesnít even have a definition for crisis bed. In this state, he said, "we have inpatient psychiatric rooms, and I am not sure NAMI wants inpatient psychiatric rooms."

Tewa Evans, president of Wood River Valley chapter of NAMI, called Mosesís cost figures "absurd."

John Moses, Hospital administrator. Express photos by David Seelig


"Heís talking about providing a whole psychiatric department and thatís not what weíre asking," Evans said.

Her estimates for renovating the hospitalís current safe room were between $10,000 and $20,000.

If the hospital hired two psychiatric nurses, she said, it would add another $120,000 in yearly salaries. To add a staff psychiatrist would be another $150,000 a year.

Dr. Keith Sivertson, the hospitalís director of emergency care, and Theresa Bush, director of nursing services, were also at the interview.

Sivertson said the cost for an inpatient psychiatric room was exclusive of licensing costs, building/environment costs and staff costs. He estimated that 2 percent of the patients the hospital sees would need such a room.

Moses and Sivertson acknowledge the hospital doesnít provide the care needed by those with psychiatric problems. But they also note the hospital is not set up to handle severe heart problems, severe burns nor neonatal intensive care.

No hospital can provide for every medical specialty, Sivertson said, not even Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Sivertson was once in charge of emergency services.

Johns Hopkins doesnít have a burn unit, he said, and to drive home the point, he said there isnít a burn unit in all of Idaho.

"Some people see this as a failure," Sivertson said, "that we have some things we canít take care of and so we must transfer patients to other facilities.

"We do no one a service by delivering a service poorly when it can be done better elsewhere."

Referring to the difficulty of responding to the "severe oversimplification" of the problem of care for the mentally ill, Sivertson said, "Sometimes, from reading the newspaper or listening to the radio, I think this [the hospital] must be the home of Darth Vader. But weíre your neighbors."

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