M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital

M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital will lose its 18 inpatient mental health beds. In its place, the hospital is launching an emPATH unit, a new model for emergency mental health care. (Sun Current staff photo by Caitlin Anderson)

In response to financial constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairview Health last week announced a downsizing at hospitals across the Twin Cities, including M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.

The Minneapolis-based health service will alter two of its St. Paul hospitals, St. Joseph’s and Bethesda, and will cut 900 positions across its system. The Fairview Southdale hospital will lose 18 inpatient mental health beds, which mental health advocates say is concerning.

In the first half of 2020, Fairview reported a loss of $163 million, according to the announcement. Fairview indicated that Bethesda will be converted to sheltering those experiencing homelessness, and that COVID-19 patients staying there will be transferred to St. Joseph’s, which will become the head hospital for coronavirus care.

But St. Joseph’s future is still uncertain. Fairview indicated that it will be turned into a “hub for health and wellness,” with inpatient mental health beds to remain through at least 2021.

Fairview also announced an emPATH unit to be built at Southdale – the first in its system – to be completed early 2021. EmPATH, which stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing, is a model for mental health care meant to prevent crises and reduce the necessity for inpatient stays and emergency department visits.

The new model is described as being “a calmer, living room-style environment for patients with urgent mental health needs,” Fairview said in the announcement.

NAMI Minnesota, a nonprofit that tackles issues on mental health, said in a press release following the announcement that the loss of the beds at Fairview Southdale is not offset by the implementation of emPATH.

Being a large provider of mental health services “is not a reason to decrease access to mental health treatment at a time when the pandemic has increased the need for mental health care. It doesn’t matter how big a provider you are, closing beds decreases access,” the statement reads.

A spokesperson with Fairview said in a statement, “Our country is facing a mental health crisis. Too many people are being left behind by a broken, outdated system that too often takes a one-size-fits-all approach to mental healthcare. … We recognize the need to disrupt the status quo and innovate our delivery of mental healthcare.”

Fairview also said emPATH is an effective alternative to emergency room care for patients that have urgent mental health needs.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

Copyright ©2020 at Sun Newspapers/ APG Media of East Central Minnesota. Digital dissemination of this content without prior written consent is a violation of federal law and may be subject to legal action.

Load comments