Care New England moves to shut down Memorial Hospital

Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island (WJAR)

Care New England said in a news release Tuesday that it has broken off negotiations with a potential buyer of Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island in Pawtucket and that it will move to close the hospital's inpatient units and emergency department, effectively shutting down the facility.

CNE said it began negotiations with Prime Healthcare Foundation in April on a sale but that the two sides could not reach an agreement.

Care New England says "chronic financial losses" at Memorial Hospital are not sustainable.

"The 294-bed hospital has averaged a daily inpatient census of just 15 to 20 patients resulting in an operating loss in the past fiscal year of $23 million," Charles Reppucci, chairman of the CNE board, said in the news release. "The magnitude of the losses at Memorial cannot be sustained and jeopardizes our other hospitals and provider organizations. We have exhausted our very best efforts and those of some nationally-recognized consultants to improve the situation without the outcomes we had hoped to achieve."

The early-morning announcement was news to the United Nurses and Allied Professionals union.

“It's devastating,” said Chris Callaci of the UNAP general counsel. “They go home and they're going to have to sit at the dinner and explain to their family that their jobs in the future are uncertain.”

The announcement affects at least 150 people who learned they’re about to be unemployed.

According to the news release, Care New England recorded a $68 million loss from operations in fiscal year 2016 and is projected to show a $49 million operating loss for the fiscal year that just ended on Sept. 30.

“We didn't see it coming that the hospital was going to close,” said Callaci.

But it's not just a shock to those saving lives. It’s an unexpected end, even to Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebian, who felt blindsided by the announcement.

"(I’ve) been up with the governor since about 4:30 a.m. and had those conversations,” said Grebian. “You hear those things on the peripheral, you hear the rumors, but I don't think anybody expected it was coming this fast.”

Care New England acquired Memorial Hospital in 2013 and said that efforts to turn things around have failed despite upgrading technology, marketing its programs and hiring experts in restructuring.

"Despite these efforts and a 2016 improvement plan to relocate the obstetric unit and scale back inpatient capacity, Memorial has not drawn enough patient and community support to meet meaningful volume thresholds that would sustain a safe and viable inpatient operation," the news release said.

The nurse's union leader thinks they didn't take responsibility for their role in the center's demise.

“It was one misstep after the other,” said Callaci. “We will fight it every way we can.”

Grebian agrees, saying Care New England didn't keep their end of the deal.

“They have that obligation, and those are the conversations we're going to need to have with the attorney general,” said Grebian. “We can't afford to lose the jobs; we can't afford to lose these services.”

Care New England said it will file an application with the state Department of Health to close the units as soon as possible.

CNE said it will attempt to fill vacancies at other properties in the health system with displaced employees.

Care New England includes Butler Hospital, Kent Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital.

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