Hospital closes psych unit after 4th suicide

DALLAS, TX Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, ordered the shutdown after a man hanged himself April 4. The hospital stopped admitting patients to its 51-bed psychiatric unit the next day.

Dalpiaz "decided he wanted to ... give us some time to assess the environment of care and make sure things were as safe as possible in our patient unit," said Dr. Catherine Orsak, head of mental health for the VA's North Texas health system.

In January, two men who met in the hospital's psychiatric ward committed suicide days after being released. The third to commit suicide was a veteran who hanged himself on a frame attached to his wheelchair.

The safety of the psychiatric ward is to be assessed by investigators visiting from the national VA offices, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Tuesday editions. Doctors sent patient records and other documents to Washington last week for review.

Orsak said the hospital has spent more than $250,000 the past six months to eliminate suicide risks. Door knobs were replaced, showers curtains and plumbing were retrofitted, and light fixtures were modified to remove rigid outcroppings veterans might use in hanging themselves.

While new patients are not being admitted to the hospital's psychiatric unit, 10 veterans are still being treated there.

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