Hospital to end behavioral health services | Local News |

After two years of pandemic restrictions and difficulties in finding permanent employees, Bay Area Hospital announced last week it was being forced to make changes to stay financially sound.

The hospital, which primarily serves Coos Bay and North Bend, announced it was going to stop using contract labor, primarily nurses that charge a rate significantly higher than regular personnel.

As a result, the hospital said it was being forced to close its behavioral health services and many other parts of the hospital will be impacted.

In a press release, the hospital said the financial strain was primary due to two aspects. First, government action on COVID-19 restricted surgical services for more than two years. Second, the inability to hire and keep full-time personnel forced the hospital to hire temporary labor, or traveling nurses.

Since September 2021, the hospital has spent $19 million on contract labor, with many charing rates twice as high as a year ago. The hospital announced it was canceling contract of all 56 of its temporary personnel, with the contracts ending within 14 to 30 days.

The impact will be seen throughout the hospital, but behavioral health will be the biggest loser as the hospital is closing that service completely. That closure is expected by the end of June.

“These changes will reduce the organization’s annual expenses and align our cost of operations with our budget,” the press release read. “Bay Area Hospital remains committed to serving this community’s healthcare needs and honoring the people that join the organization in that mission. We recognize that these past two years have been very challenging for many people but know that there continues to be a bright future ahead as we reposition Bay Area Hospital for continued success.”

State Rep. Boomer Wright said he was stunned to hear the news, especially after the Legislature approved up to $1 billion for behavioral health in Oregon.

“As a Legislature, we set aside up to $1 billion in a couple of bills to help with behavioral health in Oregon,” Wright said. “We have agencies responsible for disbursing the money that have done very little to get it out. As usual, our agencies are slow to help people out. I’m not sure why that is.

“That’s what drives me crazy on a daily basis. I’m angry. I’m just absolutely pissed off about some of our agencies and how little they’re doing with some of their responsibilities. We need to do more. There’s no oversight. There’s no mechanism for making sure our agencies have control. I’m a little mad about this whole process.”

Wright said with the money already approved, he will work to ensure the money is dispersed, hopefully with some of it going to the South Coast.

“There’s so many agencies involved, so it’s difficult to get it going. Next week, we have legislative days on all our committees. One committee I will be attending is behavioral health. I’ve already notified our chairperson that we have a problem. We have agencies like Bay Area Hospital that provide services. I’m not going to let this go. This is important. The Coast has been ignored for so long and I don’t have a problem speaking up loud and clear.”

On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority announced it was going to begin dispersing the behavioral health funds, but calls to OHA to see if Bay Area Hospital was receiving any were not returned.

According to OHA, the funding to be released includes:

The funding includes:

• Approximately $132 million in one-time grants to stabilize a behavioral health workforce that was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are currently being distributed to treatment providers.

• Approximately $155 million in behavioral health provider rate increases to sustain and support behavioral health services, some of which would begin to take effect July 1. 

• Approximately $230 million for supportive housing and residential treatment programs, which they will begin to receive later this summer.

For more on this issue, see the Friday edition of The World.


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