Retired St. Joseph's, Fatima nurses picket over pension woes

Retired nurses from St. Joseph's Hospital and Fatima Hospital protest outside Providence Superior Court, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (WJAR)

Retired nurses from St. Joseph's Hospital and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital picketed Wednesday outside the offices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

They're blaming the church for the state of their pension plan, which has been placed into temporary receivership and is facing insolvency.

At least 75 people marched back and forth. They also demonstrated outside Superior Court, where a hearing was held Wednesday.

The same day, Attorney Stephen Delsesto was appointed as the fund’s permanent receiver by Judge Brian Stern. He also received permission to contract with attorney Max Wistow to investigate and litigate if there is money to be retrieved to contribute to the pension fund.

Just over 2,700 retirees are expected to try to collect from a pension fund that is grossly underfunded. The fund itself announced several months ago that payments would have to be reduced by 40 percent.

Delsesto told NBC 10 News that there “will be cuts,” adding that he needs to continue to investigate the situation and won’t make his recommendation until February.

The complaint from the retirees and the union that represents them, is that the pension fund was judged to be 92 percent funded when Prospect Medical Holdings and CharterCARE bought St. Joseph's from the Catholic Church in 2014.

Now, retirees want to know how millions of dollars have disappeared in three years.

Delsesto told NBC 10 that the pension fund may have been funded at the moment the sale took place, but IT did not account for the fact that payments are being made, and new money is not coming in.

The diocese said it shares the concerns of the pensioners, but that it's not responsible for the crisis.

"Unfortunately, they have been given some misleading information about this very complex situation. The Diocese of Providence has not been involved in the administration or management of the hospitals for over 50 years. The Diocese of Providence did not create this problem and we are not able to resolve it," a statement from the diocese noted.

Sister Mary Reilly said it is not enough for the Catholic church to say “we feel sorry but we’re not responsible, fiscally or morally. The next sentence should be what can we do to help you. There’s not that compassion, you’d expect from a church.”

Ralph Bryden said the church should “sell their property, church property. Sell the land to pay us back.”

Prospect has previously said the pension fund has no connection to either CharterCARE Health Partners or Prospect.

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