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Pawtucket’s Leaders Seek to Protect Other Communities Against the Effects of a Hospital Closure

Mayor Donald R. Grebien and Pawtucket State Senators Elizabeth Crowley, Donna Nesselbush and William Conley announced the filing of legislation to protect other communities from the detrimental impacts of a hospital closure. This is following Memorial Hospital’s closure that was approved by the Department of Health on December 28, 2017. Municipalities and their elected officials currently do not have any standing or official role with regard to these decisions.

“I want to thank our state senators for working with us on this important legislation,” said Mayor Grebien. “We want to ensure that no other community has to go through what Pawtucket went through with Memorial Hospital. The decision to cut back or close a hospital has the greatest impact on the community, its residents and employees, and yet they have no say, no protections and no access to timely information. That needs to change.”

“Our residents and the Blackstone Valley relied upon Memorial Hospital’s services and the dedicated staff to care for and protect their health for over 100 years,” said Senator Crowley. “At the legislative level, we did everything possible to keep Memorial Hospital in operation. There is simply too much at stake when the decision is made by a company to close a hospital. The people of Rhode Island deserve to have their interests protected by a special master; the employees deserve to have the information they need about their future and financial stability; and municipal leaders deserve to have a seat at the table.”  

“Democracy requires input from its stakeholders,” said Senator Nesselbush. “It is preposterous that our community and residents and the employees of Memorial Hospital had no formal input to this process. The decision whether or not to close a hospital is an important one, with far-reaching effects. This legislation is designed to help other communities who may face similar issues in the future.”

“At the state and local level we made every effort possible to keep Memorial Hospital operating,” said Senator Conley.  “From a health, public safety and economic standpoint, it is in everyone’s best interest to have an outside party review all of the options before a closure is approved. Establishing a clear process to involve state and municipal leaders, healthcare professionals and residents will ensure effective communication is happening from the beginning.”

Senate Bill 2437, An Act Relating to Health and Safety- The Hospitals Conversions Act, seeks the following processes to be in-place when a hospital seeks approval for closure:

  • The appointment of a special master in order to protect the long-term stability of the delivery of health care services, including exploring all options prior to closure such as parties interested in acquiring the Provider, use of the Provider's property and facility, and financial stability at the expense of the hospital.   
  • Appointment of a financial consultant to perform a study determining the economic impact of the closure on the municipality within ten days. 
  • Submission of a written plan for employees, including retirement plan benefits, a timeline for their last day of employment, transition services, job fairs, and other critical information. 
  • Establishment of an ad-hoc group of community leaders (mayor, state representatives and state senator, city council representative, representative of healthcare professionals, and others) facilitated by the Department of Health to work with the hospital and provide up-to-date information, present plans and answer questions.
  • In order for the closure of an emergency room and/or hospital to be approved, the hospital must pay the municipality or take such other actions as to make the closure have a zero economic impact on the Municipality for a period of five years.  Among the economic items to be addressed, include: loss of tax revenue, direct and indirect; additional costs for transport for EMS; and loss of statutory pilot payments from the state.

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