Local News

Hospital officials urge DHHS to reconsider Dix move

Posted September 22, 2008 11:07 a.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 4:01 p.m. EDT

— Physicians at Dorothea Dix Hospital are urging state mental health care officials to "reconsider the brisk pace of merger" of the hospital with a new facility in Butner.

But Michael Lancaster, the co-director of the Division of Mental Health, said Monday that the state has no plans to delay next month's transfer of Dix patients from Raleigh to the new Central Regional Hospital.

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton announced that 170 adult patients will move to the $130 million hospital, beginning Oct. 1. The move was scheduled several months ago but was delayed because of safety and worker concerns.

In a letter dated Sept. 19, Dix officials cite a lack of a fully operational paging system, among other issues, as reasons to delay the transfer. They argue that paging system could keep doctors from reliably receiving pages, therefore "placing patients at unnecessary risk."

The letter also raises concern about the adequacy of staffing and the number of qualified personnel remaining to treat patients at Dix, which will operate as a 60-bed satellite unit after the move.

Lancaster said DHHS is taking the letter under advisement but said the concerns in it are in the process of being resolved. He said he believes the need to merge patients and staff outweighs the issues of keeping them apart.

Central Regional replaces both Dix and John Umstead Hospital in Butner. Umstead patients moved there in July.

Child and adolescent patients are expected to remain at Dix until Dec. 1, when work is completed to house them at Central.

The Legislature said Central had to meet outside safety standards before Dix patients could move.

Benton said last Thursday that the move is safe and poses fewer risks than leaving the two facilities as separate entities.