Agreement 'stabilizes' Fatima's future

Agreement 'stabilizes' Fatima's future

NORTH PROVIDENCE - A tax stabilization agreement with the potential new joint venture owner of Our Lady of Fatima Hospital is one of the final steps in securing the community hospital's future, say town officials.

The North Providence Town Council was set to hear public testimony and consider an ordinance on Tuesday that would make the purchase of CharterCare Health Partners by the for-profit Prospect Medical Holdings more palatable.

The proposal for a 10-year stabilization agreement calls for $540,000 in taxes for the first year of the agreement, the same amount the town was receiving from the state as an annual payment in lieu of taxes.

That $540,000 would go up to $567,000 in year two and then to $594,000, $621,000, $648,000, $675,000, $702,000, $729,000, $756,000 and $783,000 in years three through 10.

Town Council President Kristen Catanzaro said the stabilization agreement comes after more than a year of "tough negotiations" between the council and Prospect CharterCare. She and fellow District 3 Councilor Dino Autiello played a role in "coming up with a better agreement" than when they started talks in 2013, she said.

While Prospect CharterCare officials had sought a payment plan calling for about $500,000 a year to go to the town in each of the 10 years, she fought for a 5 percent yearly increase that will bring that total revenue to $783,000 by year 10, said Catanzaro.

Another win for taxpayers relates to Prospect's plan to invest $90 million into Fatima and sister hospital Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence within four years of its affiliation with CharterCare, said the council president.

"We appreciate that North Providence is openly considering an ongoing partnership with our health system, which provides close to 3,000 jobs and more than $25 million of charitable medical care each year," said Otis Brown, spokesman for the hospital. "The pending ordinance reflects months of open and good faith discussion, and represents our willingness to do what we can to support vital municipal services while we complete our financial turnaround under the new joint venture.

"We are committed to preserving Our Lady of Fatima Hospital as a critical component of the Rhode Island health care safety net and continuing to provide high-quality, affordable medical services, including emergency care, to residents of North Providence."

While representatives for Prospect CharterCare and attorney Mark Russo had sought a 10-year tax break on planned technology upgrades at Fatima, town officials negotiated to start taxing the equipment in year five, at 10 percent. That amount will go up 10 percent a year until it's at 60 percent in year 10, according to the agreement.

The Office of the Attorney General and Department of Health gave final approval last month to the affiliation, contingent on a number of conditions.

CharterCare will be required to make an effort at ensuring that goods and services purchased for Prospect CharterCare's operations are purchased from town vendors, states the stabilization agreement. The health care entity will be required to establish a protocol with the town to post all job opportunities and create a database for North Providence residents to apply for the jobs.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said he is happy with the final tax stabilization agreement.

"Our position right from the beginning was that we didn't get foolish and make it more difficult for this to happen," he said.

Fatima Hospital plays a vital role in North Providence for business, jobs, and public safety, said Lombardi, and this agreement is the next step in keeping the community hospital healthy.

Part of the reason negotiations have taken so long is that North Providence officials wanted to make sure the town was getting something comparable to what Providence would get for Roger Williams Medical Center, said Catanzaro.

Catanzaro thanked North Providence Rep. William O'Brien, a man she said played a major role in discussions and "was very important to the agreement" getting done.