Oct 4, 2023 - News

Pasco mental health hospital closed

About 15 people wearing red  hold "patients first" and "save lives invest in communities" signs standing behind a woman speaking into two microphones. The hospital can be seen in the background

Debbie Proulx speaks outside HCA Trinity West with nurses from the hospital behind her. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

A mental health facility serving north Tampa Bay has closed at a time when mental health services are in more demand in the area.

Driving the news: HCA Trinity West, a mental health hospital on Marine Parkway in New Port Richey, was closed by the HCA Florida system last month after assessing Hurricane Idalia damage.

  • Mental health services are being transferred to HCA Florida's West Tampa and Largo West hospitals — more than 40 minutes and an hour drive away, respectively.

Why it matters: Tampa Bay residents are experiencing a mental health crisis and Florida's mental health system has long been overwhelmed.

  • Debbie Proulx, executive director of Pasco's National Alliance of Mental Health chapter, said patients came to Trinity West most commonly for help with anxiety and depression, as well as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The rub: Proulx and nurses' union members think Hurricane Idalia is being used as a scapegoat for the system not wanting to pay to keep a vital service available.

  • At a press conference outside their old workplace Tuesday, nurses held signs provided by National Nurses United that said, "Save lives. Invest in communities" and "Patients first in the hospital."

What they're saying: "These people who live in this area don't have anywhere else to go," said Becky Smiley, a nursing supervisor. "It's bad for everybody."

  • A lot of Trinity West patients would walk to the hospital or be dropped off by people who lived nearby, Smiley said. If they don't want to use the BayCare system, the only other provider in the area, it'll be tough to get to HCA's other facilities, she said.
  • Smiley is still looking for a job. A spokesperson for the hospital said most impacted workers have accepted new positions within the HCA Healthcare system, some have interviews in progress and some are opting for severance.

The other side: Demand for the hospital's services has declined over the last decade, HCA said. The hospital was operating at a third of its capacity, an average daily census of 18 patients, over the past year, a spokesperson for the hospital told Axios.

  • When it was evacuated for Hurricane Idalia on Aug. 30, six patients were taken to other HCA Florida Healthcare mental health programs, HCA said.
  • The system sees the closure as a chance to "expand capabilities to more positively impact patient care and better serve the broader community," according to its announcement.

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