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Three enter Kish mental health unit as first admissions since November

DeKALB – Three patients were admitted to the behavioral health unit at Kishwaukee Community Hospital in the past five days, hospital staff confirmed Wednesday.
They are the first admissions in the ward since last November, when KCH submitted a proposal to the state to close its unit that provides inpatient mental health care. The Daily Chronicle could not confirm Wednesday which doctor or doctors admitted the patients.
One of the three patients had been discharged by Wednesday morning, hospital spokeswoman Sharon Emanuelson said. Emanuelson said the admissions “underscore” what the hospital has been saying since asking the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board last November to let it close the behavioral health unit: that the unit is still open while the hospital awaits the planning board’s decision.
“The unit has been open, staff has been on call in case we needed them,” she said. “It doesn’t change the fact there is very low usage of the unit. The average daily census over a year is still very low.”
Jerry Lane, a spokesman for DeKalb County Citizens for Better Mental Health Care, said the advocacy group was leery about the patient admissions. The hospital’s application to the state to disband the unit said the behavioral health ward was still open, Lane noted, which he contends has not been true since November.
Lane said it is his understanding that the unit’s staff were reassigned and no patients had been admitted since November.
“I think that with the corporate approach that the hospital has taken to the whole issue, as opposed to a community approach, we have no way of knowing if this has to do more with image than substance,” Lane said. “I would love them to prove me wrong.”
Lane said he thought it is good that area residents had access to the unit again, and hoped that the hospital brought back the employees who used to staff that ward because of the excellent care they provide.
KCH has provided inpatient care for mental illness for more than 30 years, and the state has twice decreased the number of beds in the unit – from 16 to eight and then to its current six beds.
Hospital officials have said the unit is not used frequently enough, that it is difficult to staff, and that it is not profitable. A state study released in October 2008 found 33 excess acute mental illness beds in the geographical area that includes KCH.
The state’s health facilities planning board is tentatively scheduled to consider KCH’s application in July.

What’s next

The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board is tentatively scheduled to hear a request to close the inpatient mental health unit at Kishwaukee Community Hospital at its July 15-16 meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. at the Northfield Inn, Suites & Conference Center, 3280 Northfield Drive in Springfield.
Anyone unable to attend the hearing who wishes to submit written comments must submit them to the planning board by June 25. Written comments can be addressed to Mike Constantino, Supervisor, Project Review Section, Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, 525 W. Jefferson St., Second Floor, Springfield, IL 62761.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115