The Bulletin Board

Worker shortage and too few discharge options close 48 beds at state hospital

By: - September 23, 2022 3:03 pm
Chris Sununu and Lori Shibinette

Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette, shown here in a file photo, said 48 of the state hospital's 184 beds are closed due to staffing shortages. (Annmarie Timmins | New Hampshire Bulletin)

In a week where nearly 30 adults were waiting in emergency rooms for inpatient psychiatric care, 48 of New Hampshire Hospital’s 184 beds are closed due to staffing shortages, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told executive councilors this week.

Staffing shortages and too few discharge options have left many people waiting in emergency rooms for an inpatient psychiatric treatment. (Screenshot)

That’s partly due to the department’s inability to compete with wages and $10,000 sign-on bonuses offered by other hospitals, she said. Additionally, people who no longer require hospitalization cannot be discharged because there’s insufficient affordable housing or transitional housing that offers them independent living with support. She has cited that “back door” problem for months.

“We’ve been fully staffed before with all of our beds open and still had a waitlist,” Shibinette told the council. “We have nowhere to discharge them.”

At its prior meeting, the council approved a 15 percent wage increase for some department staff, including nurses at the state hospital, which will boost paychecks but still fall short of lucrative sign-on bonuses. And the department has received initial approval from the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee to provide SolutionHealth $15 million toward the construction of a behavioral health hospital that would add 100 beds. That has not yet come before the Executive Council.

In addition to its beds, Health and Human Services has contracts with six hospitals for additional beds, about 70 for adults and 16 for children. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.