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Nurses and staff protest closure of geriatric psychiatric unit at UC Irvine Medical Center

October 2, 2009 |  2:35 pm

About three dozen nurses and staff protested this afternoon outside UC Irvine Medical Center after hospital officials announced they have closed the facility’s 13-bed geriatric psychiatric unit.

UCI had struggled to fill the unit, and officials decided to close it this week due to cost concerns, according to hospital spokesman John Murray.

“We’re having to look for ways to cuts costs given the state budget crisis and its impact on the UC system and the medical centers in particular,” Murray said.

Patients were transferred from the geriatric unit to two larger adult psychiatric units at the hospital, which are licensed to care for 38 patients, Murray said. Eight nurses from the geriatric unit were laid off and have been offered lower-ranking jobs for less pay in other parts of the hospital, union representatives said.

Nurses at the protest complained that without the geriatric unit, elderly patients will not receive the same level of specialized care.

“The geriatric patients are a vulnerable, fragile group who cannot be mixed with the general population,” said Catherine Montgomery, a registered nurse at the hospital who helped lead the protest with the California Nurses Assn.

 — Molly Hennessy-Fiske