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Dallas VA Hospital Opens Remodeled Psychiatric Unit

The Dallas VA medical center’s psychiatric wing, where two patients committed suicide last year, reopened fully after a nine-month closure.

The wing has been renovated, with new technologies to help safeguard patients and alert hospital personnel about potential problems.

Among the renovations, said hospital spokeswoman Penny Kerby, are pressure-sensitive door alarms that would sound if someone hung something from a door. The two patients who committed suicide last year did so by hanging themselves from the door frames in their rooms.

Two other VA patients committed suicide days after leaving the hospital.

The last of those four deaths, in April 2008, prompted the hospital to close the psychiatric wing – actually two separate units – until renovations could be made.

Some modifications were completed in May, and one of the two units re-opened then, with a limited number of admissions.

Other improvements include security monitors at the nursing station and increased staffing, including the addition of suicide prevention coordinators.

Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, said in a written statement: “We must continue vigilant efforts to review and review again our mental health program to provide a safe environment with trained professionals to protect our patients, sometimes from themselves.”

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