Doctors Medical Center took over operation of Stanislaus Behavioral Health Center on Thursday, ending 13 years of county ownership of the acute psychiatric hospital.
Stanislaus County sold the 67-bed hospital on Claus Road because of federal regulations limiting how the county could operate the center. The name will change to Doctors Behavioral Health Center.
Under a contract with the county, the hospital will still care for Medi-Cal patients and uninsured people who are having psychiatric episodes. County mental health staff will continue to provide emergency assistance to law enforcement and emergency rooms, said Denise Hunt, director of county Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.
"We are committed to making this work," Hunt said. "There will be bumps in the road the next few weeks, but we will be continuing to use the facility to place people."
Doctors Medical Center, which agreed to an $11 million sale price, is operating the hospital through a management agreement with Horizon Health Inc. George Rex of Horizon is the interim director.
As of Thursday, the hospital had enough psychiatrists on staff to accommodate patients in about a third of the beds.
"With regard to psychiatrists, we have enough coverage for 24 patients," said David Eich, a spokesman for DMC. "We have a plan in place to increase that volume by the end of the month. We will divert (patients) if necessary so we can stay within the guidelines."
Eich said the hospital has nurses and support staff for at least 45 patients.
With the sale of the hospital, county Behavioral Health and Recovery Services eliminated 115 positions, of which only 54 were filled. Twenty-eight chose to take other positions with the county and the others either went to work for the new owner, retired or took other jobs, Hunt said.
The hospital cares for mental health patients until they can be safely released. The average stay in the center is five days, Hunt said.
DMC officials said there are no plans to change the hospital's primary role. An agreement sets aside 35 beds for county patients; the remainder of the beds will be for patients with insurance.
The hospital was formerly owned by National Medical Enterprises, the previous name of DMC's parent corporation. The company sold the hospital to the county in 1994.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.