TRINITY, Fla. (WFLA) — Nurses are raising concerns over the closure of a Pasco County mental health facility.
Registered nurses at HCA Florida Trinity Hospital West held a press conference Tuesday to speak about their concerns after they shut down the hospital’s behavioral health unit.
Nurses said they worry the unit’s closure will leave vulnerable patients in their community without easily-accessible mental health care.
“I’m heartbroken for patients,” said Sue Wegener, RN in Trinity Hospital’s behavioral health unit for 12 years.
In an emailed statement the hospital told News Channel 8 the closure is due to a decline in patients, “HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital has experienced a steady decline in behavioral health patients. Before HCA Florida Trinity West’s suspension of services due to the hurricane, the hospital’s average daily patient census was only a third its capacity.”
“A little over a year ago, rumors that management was planning to shut down our unit prompted a mass exodus of staff, forcing us to reduce the number of patients we could take at a time,” said Wegener. “Management downplayed those rumors at the time, and we worked very hard to get our unit ready to expand capacity again. Now, all of the sudden, they’re using Hurricane Idalia as an excuse to suddenly close our unit’s doors forever, proving those rumors true and leaving our patients without a critical local resource for behavioral health care.”
The hospital said mental health services will be transferred to sister hospitals HCA Florida West Tampa and HCA Florida Largo West Hospitals.
Wegener said many patients rely on family for rides to appointments and worries the other facilities are too far for most of them.
The hospital contends that “HCA Florida West Tampa Hospital and HCA Florida Largo West Hospital are located well under a one-hour drive from HCA Florida Trinity West Hospital.”
The nurses said they have been offered other positions within the hospital but did not feel comfortable working in different specialties.