New York, NY – Irving Campbell, 41, is a registered nurse at NY-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital — and has been on the job for nearly 20 years. Campbell, a member of the New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA], previously worked in inpatient psychiatric care, in the adult psychiatric care unit.
“What brings me value in my life is serving the mental health community,” he says.
But with the coming of COVID-19, his unit, along with the geriatric care unit, each comprised of twenty-five beds, was shut down in late March to make more room for coronavirus patients. Those previous patients wound up being transferred to other hospitals.
“We don’t know how they’re doing because we don’t see them,” a saddened Campbell says.
Making matters worse, Campbell says, “There are low reimbursement rates for insurance — many hospitals don’t put money into keeping the units open. For many years, hospitals have been trying to cut inpatient psychiatric beds and they’ve been successful.”
In June, Campbell and his fellow nurses were told that the units would be re-opened, but not for twelve to eighteen months — during which time they would be renovated. In the meantime, nurses have been working in other areas of healthcare, such as medical surgical units, or helpers or assistants to ICU nurses.
“That was a bit of a blow to us, because we have a particularly sensitive population and they were ignored,” Campbell says. “No one wants to talk about mental health because it’s stigmatized —1.6 million New Yorkers have a serious mental health illness. NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said [recently] that he was dropping out of the mayoral race because he’s been struggling with depression. That’s great – to talk about it. Often patients are not heard.”
When asked whether he is worried about a second surge in COVID-19, Campbell says, “I think everyone is. As a frontline nurse, yes. I don’t think you will find a nurse that’s not worried about the second surge coming. What we’ve seen and endured, I don’t think will ever come out of our minds.”