Union sues to halt Memorial Hospital closure

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – The union that represents nurses at Memorial Hospital filed suit Thursday against its parent company and the state, alleging they are not following the rules as they review whether the hospital should be allowed to close.

The union alleges that Memorial owner Care New England hasn’t fulfilled the requirements of the Hospital Conversions Act, the state law governing hospital ownership, by working to transfer portions of its services to Kent Hospital. It also accuses Care New England of failing to get approval before eliminating some services at the hospital, including the emergency department.

The union is asking a judge to block any further attempts to reduce services at Memorial without formal approval from regulators.

“The Department of Health has allowed Care New England to circumvent the Hospital Conversions Act and now we are asking the Court to restore integrity to the regulatory process,” Chris Callaci, general counsel for the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, said in a statement.

A spokesman for Care New England said Thursday night the company had just received the suit and was currently reviewing it.

Care New England announced earlier this fall it planned to close Memorial, citing tens of millions of dollars in operating losses at the Pawtucket facility and low patient numbers. The union and local leaders have pushed back at the proposal, arguing more should be done to try and keep the hospital open.

In addition to Care New England and Memorial, the suit also names the R.I. Department of Health and the attorney general’s office as defendants.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the Health Department, said he had no specific comment on the suit but said officials continue to review Care New England’s closure application.

“A part of this process is carefully reviewing the community feedback that we gathered at two very productive community meetings over the last two weeks,” he said. “Once a decision is made on those applications, it will be made public.”

A message was left with the attorney general’s office seeking comment.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook