Rhode Island hospital finance chief dodged 2 layoff attempts in the last year

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The chief of operations and financial management at Eleanor Slater Hospital, an embattled state-run psychiatric hospital in Cranston, R.I., avoided losing his job for months despite two layoff attempts, according to local news station WPRI. 

The station reviewed dozens of messages, personal records and other public documents that disclosed the attempt to lay off Christopher Feisthamel began in October 2020. Kathryn Power, the then-director of the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees Eleanor Slater, provided notice to the state of her intention to lay off multiple employees, including Mr. Feisthamel.

Human resources staffers told WPRI that shortly after that they informed him he could choose between leaving or taking a new position with Womazetta Jones, secretary of Rhode Island's Executive Office of Health and Human Services, that paid about $100,000 less than his $226,000 salary. 

"Chris would like a few days to digest the information and determine the best option for him," Pamela Moscarelli, the state's deputy personnel administrator, wrote in a Nov. 5 email to multiple state employees, including Ms. Power. 

Mr. Feisthamel never took the lower-paying job and WPRI confirmed that his salary and title never changed. 

In February, new questions emerged after a worker with the health department sent an email confirming Mr. Feisthamel never transferred to the state health and human services department.

"In view of this assessment and the fact that his official transfer to EOHHS was never completed, [Feisthamel] should be instructed to return to BHDDH effective Monday 2/8/2021 and report to his previous supervisor," a Feb. 5 email to Ms. Power read.

An hour after the email, Ms. Power sent an email to Jennifer White, who was then the interim CEO of Eleanor Slater.

"God almighty… can we lay him off??" Ms. Power wrote, according to an email obtained by WPRI.

Ms. Power then received authorization to lay off Mr. Feisthamel in February.

"The purpose of this letter is to advise you that your request to effectuate the layoff of Christopher Feisthamel …is approved," R.I. Department of Administration executive director of human resources Kyle Adamonis wrote in an email obtained by WPRI. "Please proceed with the formal notification to Mr. Feisthamel."

Once again, the layoff didn't happen, and Mr. Feisthamel continues to work at Eleanor Slater, according to the report. 

Eleanor Slater Hospital has been in the headlines in recent months. Its interim CEO, Ms. White, was removed after a no-confidence vote by nurses and amid an investigation into the facility by the state's attorney general. She had served as interim CEO since June 2020. The move comes after Ms. White and three other top executives at Eleanor Slater Hospital received a no-confidence vote from members of the local unit of United Nurses and Allied Professionals. The vote also applied to the hospital's chief of medical services, chief medical officer and chief nursing officer. 

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