Virginia Iacono stood at the podium, a hospital bracelet around her wrist. She is 73 and undergoing cancer treatment at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.
“There are hundreds of us that rely on that cancer center,’’ she said. “Where are we gonna go…?”
Iacono, of East Providence, was among more than a hundred people who attended a public hearing Monday night about Care New England Health System’s plan to close the financially-ailing community hospital. Nearly two-dozen people -- including doctors, patients and hospital employees -- spoke at the hearing in the auditorium of Goff Junior High School in Pawtucket.
The hearing was organized by officials at the Rhode Island Department of Health who are reviewing Care New England’s application to close Memorial. Care New England reports the hospital is losing about $2 million a month.
The United Nurses and Allied Professional’s Union Local 5082, which represents about 150 Memorial employees, picketed outside the hospital Monday afternoon. Rita Brennan, a registered nurse at Memorial and president of the union local, said she is worried about Memorial’s patients – many of whom are poor and walk or ride the bus to the hospital for care.
Care New England plans to continue to provide out-patient primary care services on the Memorial campus after the hospital closes under a licensing agreement with Kent Hospital in Warwick, Joseph Oriti, chief administrative officer for Care New England, said at the hearing.
Members of the state senate delegation are urging the state's health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, to deny Care New England's request to close Memorial. In a Nov. 27 letter, they said that "while there may be an excess of hospital beds, there is certainly no shortage of need for primary care and emergency services."
Alexander-Scott will have final say on the hospital’s application to close. The deadline to submit written comments about the planned closure is December 11th.
If approved, Memorial would be the fifth hospital to close in Rhode Island since 1989.
1989: Fogarty Hospital, Woonsocket
Early 1990s: Notre Dame Hospital, Central Falls; Cranston General, Cranston
1992-‘93 – St Joseph Hospital, Providence