Hospitals’ joint recruitment adds inpatient psychiatric capacity

UVM Medical Center helps recruit psychiatrists for Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, NY

The UVM Medical Center and Larner College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry is recruiting seven new psychiatrists for The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) in Plattsburgh. Five of those physicians came on board at CVPH last summer.

CVPH has had great difficulty recruiting and retaining psychiatrists and has been running its inpatient units well below capacity. Hospital leaders asked UVM Medical Center for help.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Robert Althoff, MD, PhD, heads the expanded Plattsburgh department. “This is all very new for CVPH,” he said. “We’re not there to displace anyone.”

Including Althoff, the team would comprise eight psychiatrists. “Fewer than that and a division is too vulnerable to small changes in staffing,” said UVM Medical Center Psychiatry Chair Robert Pierattini, MD. Five positions will be hospital-based, with three others located at community facilities. All psychiatrists will spend time in all three settings.

The move is also expected to open up access to inpatient services in Vermont. “We’re already serving New Yorkers in Burlington,” Pierattini said, “so giving patients – particularly children – access to services (in Plattsburgh) will help with our Emergency Department backlog and bed shortages throughout Vermont.” CVPH has the only pediatric inpatient unit in our region; the closest in Vermont is in Brattleboro.

Voluntary patients can go from here to Plattsburgh, which is closer for Chittenden County residents than facilities in Berlin, Brattleboro and Saratoga Springs, NY.

The department is recruiting child psychiatrists because they can treat the full age spectrum.

Recruiting for psychiatrists is challenging, Althoff said, especially in rural areas. The biggest difference in this process is “that we’re coming over as a group, and our philosophy (the Vermont Family-Based Approach) will come over with us.”

The department also hired two full-time child psychiatrists and two mental health clinicians in Burlington in 2016.