Officials testify in favor of bills to help reopen Memorial

Officials testify in favor of bills to help reopen Memorial

PAWTUCKET – Mayor Donald Grebien last week testified in support of Senate bills 2953 and 2954 and House bills 8245 and 8242, which will impact the potential reopening or conversion of Memorial Hospital in the city.

Fire Chief William Sisson, Mary Lou Moran, director of senior services, and Tony Pires, the recently retired director of administration, also testified in support.

“The Senate, House and Care New England need to act to allow Memorial Hospital to return critical services to our area,” said Grebien. “We have a partner in CharterCare willing to step up and make a $10 million dollar capital investment to the property and reopen emergency services.”

The mayor added, “When Care New England announced that they were closing Memorial Hospital’s emergency room, and eventually the whole hospital, we knew that is was the wrong decision and we knew the negative impact it was going to have. Service to our residents and those in the area is declining. Our residents and the people of Rhode Island and the Blackstone Valley deserve better.”

The closure of Memorial Hospital is not only a Pawtucket and Blackstone Valley problem but a problem for the entire state, said Chief Sisson, a 32-year veteran of the department. 

“The PFD responds to over 12,000 EMS calls a year, 50 percent of which were transported to Memorial. Since the closure, the PFD has had to increase transports to other hospitals in the state and even to Sturdy Memorial in Massachusetts increasing our out-of-service times an additional 300 minutes or 5 hours a day. Pawtucket, along with our neighboring communities, are seeing long lines of rescues waiting to transfer and ER staff often overwhelmed by the overflow of patients,” he said.

“At a stage in people’s life when their health is declining, we shouldn’t be making it more difficult to access care we should be making it easier,” said Moran. “My office has counseled clients who lives have been greatly disrupted.”

The legislation affects the hospital closure transaction act and alternative payment incentives for hospitals. If a closed hospital is purchased within two years of closure the purchasing hospital would allow the services that has been provided to continue under the new ownership, as well as a more streamlined regulatory approval process. In addition, the legislation creates a hospital payment structure to allow hospitals which meet certain criteria to be eligible for an enhanced commercial rate agreement with insurers. This new rate arrangement will help to fix the disparity in the rates that hospitals have been paid.

Grebien thanked members of the local delegation for sponsoring the bills.

In April, CharterCare announced its intention to purchase and reopen Memorial Hospital’s emergency room, invest $10 million in capital improvements, and develop a phased-in approach to restore hospital services. Charter Care has presented an offer to Care New England for the facility.

The offer was contingent on getting all appropriate regulatory licenses and certificates reinstated. The purchase was also contingent on CharterCare’s ability to either negotiate fair commercial rates with insurance providers or the adoption of legislation that would mandate commercial reimbursement rates in line with the average commercial rate paid to other hospitals in Rhode Island.

On June 6, the House Committee on Finance held hearings on two key pieces of legislation that would help to restore emergency room services at Memorial Hospital.

• The first bill would improve and correct the unjustified disparity of commercial hospital payment rates from insurers.

• The second would allow for an expedited restoration of hospital licenses if a hospital has been closed for less than two years without undergoing a burdensome and lengthy regulatory review process.

Similar bills were heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday sponsored by Senator William Conley. Rep. Mary Messier of Pawtucket sponsored the House bills.