Cities filing lawsuit over proposed cuts at Memorial Hospital

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The union representing nurses at Memorial Hospital is once again taking action to try and stop the efforts by Care New England to scale back care at the Pawtucket hospital.

Union members and state lawmakers held a rally at the statehouse Wednesday to express concerns over the potential impacts the proposed cuts would have, saying local residents depend on having a hospital close by.

“You cannot ask a woman who is in labor to get on a RIPTA bus and go to the hospital and deliver a baby,” said Rep. Dave Coughlin, D-Pawtucket.

The cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls are now filing a lawsuit in an attempt to block the proposal.

“We’re asking the court to enjoin the dismantling of Memorial Hospital and to make sure that those services continue while we go through the process of restructuring with South Coast,” said Sen. William Conley, a lawyer for the two cities.

In a memo to staff in February, Care New England CEO Dennis Keefe said his organization’s board approved a plan to scale back services at the Pawtucket hospital, which included closing the maternity ward and intensive care unit, moving the hospital’s residency program to Kent Hospital, consolidating lab services, and laying off an “undetermined” number of staff members.

The R.I. Department of Health began its formal review of the proposed cuts at Memorial on April 22, after ordering the hospital to continue offering those services during the review period. The agency has 90 days to decide whether or not to approve the changes.

“We’re balancing the needs of the consumers and the patients with the financial difficulties that hospitals are facing,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts.

The hospital’s president, Dr. Michael Dacey, said Memorial is losing $2 million a month and the plan was proposed to put a stop to that.

“Health care’s changing, it’s a changing world,” Dacey explained. “And you can’t continue to operate a 294-bed hospital with an average medical/surgical census somewhere in the high 30s. That’s just not consistent with common sense.”

In a letter to the Pawtucket City Council released Monday, Mayor Donald Grebien said Care New England’s proposal would “remove a substantial community asset from the city of Pawtucket.”

While Dr. Dacey insisted only 25 job cuts are being considered, the union and their allies fear that closer to 200 jobs are on the line.

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