WSNA calls for reopening of UWMC inpatient psych unit


The Univer­sity of Washington Medical Center has shut down the in-patient psychi­atric unit, without commit­ting to a timeline to reopen it. At a time when the coron­avirus pandemic is raising concerns about the psycho­log­ical well-being of so many of our residents, during the month set aside for Mental Health Aware­ness, the UW is denying needed care by shutting down this unit.

In addition to serving the needs of all persons needing mental health assis­tance in our commu­nity, this unit also serves women with high-risk pregnan­cies, trans­plant patients and Univer­sity of Washington students strug­gling with mental health issues. No other inpatient psychi­atric unit in the state offers these services to inpatient pregnant women. The unit supports UWMC trans­plant patients on site. And it offers supportive, volun­tary inpatient services to students steps away from UW dormitories. 

This closure has reignited concerns that UWMC will close the inpatient psychi­atric unit perma­nently. These fears are not unfounded. In April 2018, the UW Medical Center threat­ened to shut this psychi­atric unit down, citing the drain of resources needed to make upgrades required by regula­tory agencies. In delaying the closure, UW Medicine said that it would be opening 12 new beds at the North­west campus – a transi­tional step that did not fully address nurses’ concerns that the new beds would not be as acces­sible for UW students and concerns that new beds wouldn’t address the needs of the patient popula­tions currently served.

WSNA calls on UW Medicine to reopen the inpatient psychi­atric unit, 7 North, as soon as possible. Shutting down inpatient psychi­atric services at this moment in time repre­sents a short-term cost cut that would deny much needed psychi­atric care to some of our most vulner­able commu­nity members – pregnant women, trans­plant patients and students – at a time when the mental health strain of the coron­avirus pandemic makes it even more necessary.