Grebien, Raimondo continue to deal with planned closure of Memorial Hospital

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said Monday he remains hopeful about keeping some health services in Pawtucket after meeting with executives at Care New England, who announced last week they plan to close Memorial Hospital in his city.

Grebien said the first of many meetings related to Memorial’s proposed closing took place on Friday. Officials including Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, and both the CEO and chief financial officer of Care New England met to discuss plans moving forward.

“Frustrations on both sides and the breakdown, not having communication, and they were good about it, we got everything out on the table,” Grebien said. “It’s like the family dinner at Thanksgiving right? You flush it out.”

A spokesperson with Care New England confirmed that the hospital system stands by its plans and expects to file a request in the next few weeks with the R.I. Department of Health to close emergency and inpatient services at Memorial. However, he said officials there are working with both the city and state to talk about access to health care in the community.

“They said they are looking at a plan to keep some services there, we don’t know to what degree,” Grebien said.

Separately on Monday, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she has secured commitments from the heads of the Lifespan and CharterCARE hospital groups for their facilities to hire Memorial’s employees if the Pawtucket facility closes. She said they should have enough vacancies for all its nearly 700 employees so that no one will be out of a job.

Grebien said he believes hiring a special master would help the transition process as Care New England works to not only close Memorial but also merge its other hospitals with Partners HealthCare of Massachusetts. He said he’s looking to find a solution that will keep primary and emergency health services in the city.

“We’ve had multiple conversations with the governor, the governor’s office, we’ve brought on an attorney,” he said.

Grebien said multiple meetings have been set up to discuss further plans.

“They haven’t shared what they are on board with,” he said. “They said they’re going to hold off on the reverse CON, and they’re going to lay out a plan that they say they think is feasible to them, don’t know what that is, and at that point we may agree or disagree.” (CON is the acronym for a “certificate of need,” the formal application process for a hospital to change the services it offers.)

Grebien and Care New England officials both said that the priority is making sure patients at Memorial are taken care of.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.