City: Memorial Hospital application should be for changes, not closure

City: Memorial Hospital application should be for changes, not closure

PAWTUCKET – Representatives from the city are arguing that Care New England’s application with the state to close Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island should instead be an application to make changes at the health facility.

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Monday heard from concerned citizens for a second round of community input regarding the closure of Memorial Hospital. The meeting was held at the Elizabeth Baldwin Elementary School in Pawtucket.

Mayor Donald Grebien and city attorney Theodore Orsen requested that instead of an application for closure, Care New England should file an application for changes.

“Order Care New England to live up to its Hippocratic oath and to fulfill its legal and ethical responsibilities under the statutes and regulations in order to protect the health and well-being of Pawtucket and Central Falls’ most vulnerable residents,” Orsen told representatives from RIDOH.

The pair proposed that should DOH choose to close MHRI, then conditions need to be applied to protect the health of the community. The conditions proposed are as follows:

• Primary care services at MHRI be preserved at the same level or increased;

• The residency program at MHRI be maintained;

• The acute rehabilitation unit be maintained;

• Urgent care services be located in the emergency room;

• A request for proposal is issued to prevent leaving an abandoned building in Pawtucket;

• A consultant is hired to advise which other health services are necessary to protect the most vulnerable populations

• Any companies with expressed interest in acquiring Care New England commit to restoring a full-service acute care community hospital to Pawtucket.

“The financials are not the only consideration. If we are honest with one-another, this application should be in front of you for changes and not closure, and certainly not for lack of community needs to services being provided here,” said Grebien.

Pawtucket resident and local school attorney Jon Anderson, of 27 Talcott Ave., located about three blocks south of MHRI, said there has been a systematic plan since 2013 to move patients out of the hospital, including advertising at MHRI for other CNE hospitals.

“Stop the steering at Memorial Hospital. Stop the video tapes that encourage people to leave Memorial Hospital and go elsewhere so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that the census is going down,” Anderson said.

Mayor James Diossa of neighboring Central Falls said his concerns fall with the people of his city, many of whom are poor and lack transportation.

“Thirty-three percent of Central Falls residents live in poverty, 72 percent are not English speaking, about 22 percent of people from Central Falls lack documentation, which limits their access to special services or any health care services,” Diossa said. “Many have long benefited from Memorial Hospital.”

Transportation to Miriam Hospital in Providence will be an issue for many of the residents, said Diossa. He expressed concerns about how the added time transporting a patient a longer distance would impact emergency situations.

More than 100 people attended Monday’s meeting, which was organized to allow the community to comment on two applications from Care New England on behalf of MHRI, one intending to close the emergency department and the other to transfer its primary care license to Kent Hospital.

Many speakers Monday emphasized that the population of Pawtucket is “vulnerable” and in need of a central care facility.

Beginning Dec. 1, RIDOH ordered MHRI to cease emergency transport and performing surgeries, and to stop accepting new patients, citing lack of staffing and necessary services conducive to quality care. RIDOH said the anesthesia services contract at MHRI expired Nov. 30, and additional issues such as a non-functioning intensive care unit, and no gastrointestinal physician or orthopedists, would not prepare MHRI for the “unexpected.”

RIDOH Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said during the Monday night meeting that the order is temporary, and will continue under that restriction until RIDOH has made a decision whether to approve CNE application to close.

“The consent order that was issued last week was for a temporary timeframe, and this will only be the situation until the Department of Health makes its final decisions on the Care New England applications,” she said. “Also, the consent order that we issued should not be understood as in indication for how the Department of Health will decide on Care New England’s application.”

Closure still has supporters, such as Dr. James Fanale, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief clinical officer of Care New England. He said lack of capital and financial resources, and not lack of competency, is the problem with MHRI.

“We actually can’t even have computers plugged in in several places because of a failure to have adequate cables. The concept of profits over patients was never an issue,” Fanale said. “In no way does the safety dialog translate to any complaint or concern by any of our staff.”