Financially Ailing Memorial Hospital In Pawtucket To Shut ER, Inpatient Services

Memorial Hospital is closing all but some walk-in clinics after its planned sale to a California hospital chain fell through.

Hospital officials announced the decision on Tuesday at a noon meeting with hundreds of employees.

The hospital's parent company, Care New England, said it plans to shut down emergency services and in-patient units, after the failure of a proposed sale to Prime Healthcare Foundation. In a statement, the company blamed chronic financial losses for the closure.

Exiting the all-staff meeting, one employee told RIPR that hospital officials said 700 people work for Memorial Hospital, and "most" would keep their jobs. She expressed incredulity at that suggestion.

Some employees broke down in tears during the meeting, she said.

Idalina Silva, a 34-year-old single mother, is a technician in Pawtucket Memorial Hospital's emergency room which is shutting down.
Credit Lynn Arditi / RIPR

One of them was Idalina Silva, who works as a technician in the emergency room which is slated to be shut down.

Silva, 34, grew up in Pawtucket, near the hospital. Her mother worked at Memorial, as did her brother -- before he got laid off in the last round of cuts. She was so upset, she said, she left the meeting early.

 “We’ve dedicated our lives to working here and caring for the community,’’ she said, “and the community suffers without this hospital.” 

The 294-bed hospital has been serving an average of just 10-15 patients each day, according to Care New England. The company said the hospital has been losing money for nearly a decade. In the most recent fiscal year, Memorial lost $23 million. It is projected to lose $49 million for the fiscal year that ended September 30th.

The hospital has about 800 employees, 600 of them full-time, James Beardsworth, a spokesman for Care New England, said in an e-mail.

The United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5082, which represents about 150 employees at Memorial, denounced the plans. "We are deeply saddened by Care New England's decision to turn its back on Blackstone Valley families and the dedicated, hard-working health professionals of Memorial Hospital,’’  Christ Callaci, general counsel for UNAP, said in a statement. 

The hospital also has about 70 medical residents affiliated with Brown University's medical school. Care New England officials are developing a plan to address the residents.

Memorial closed its maternity department last year. The new closures require approval from the Rhode Island Department of Health.

"I am extremely disappointed in this decision by Care New England to abandon our community hospital during their transactions, putting their agreement with Partners above the one with Prime Healthcare," Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said in a statement. "I think closing Memorial could have been avoided, rather than giving up on an urban community and the Blackstone Valley. Our community needs are important and should not be dismissed for profit. Memorial Hospital provides access to quality care for our residents and is one of our largest employers.

"We have kept in touch with all sides and with the state," Grebien continued. "However, it’s difficult not being at the negotiating table. Since the announcement of this transaction, Mayor Diossa and I have made it clear to the parties that we are willing and able partners. However, with this announcement, we will use all tools available to us, including but not limited to legal action, to ensure the services for the community are protected.

Grebien said the cuts at Memorial underscore "how critical the economic development component of the State’s investment and new revenue is to Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley. They are all related. A prosperous healthcare provider needs a growing population and access to a trained workforce."

Governor Gina Raimondo said she's encouraging Care New England "to do everything they possibly can to make sure people don't lose their jobs -- maybe they could be redeployed to Women & Infants or Butler, but it's a sad day and I want them to make sure people don't lose their jobs."

Speaking before a Providence event, Raimondo said the state Department of Health is reaching out to remaining patients at Memorial.

She said the change is more of a blow to Pawtucket than to healthcare in Rhode Island. "I think it just reflects the fact that we probably need fewer hospital beds," she said, "because as we all know fewer things are happening in hospitals. You can do more things in doctors' offices and whatnot. So it's part of the changing way that healthcare is delivered. But if you're a nurse at Pawtucket, it's not a good day and that's why we've got to do everything we can to make you keep your job and if you're a patient there, we're going to make sure we take care of you."