Senator sues to prevent Rhode Island hospital from scaling back services

Democratic Rhode Island Sen. William Conley, who serves Pawtucket and East Providence, is working pro bono as the lawyer on a suit filed to prevent Providence, R.I.-based Care New England Health System from cutting services at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket.

In March, Memorial Hospital officials announced plans to shut down the hospital's birthing center and one of its medical/surgical inpatient units. The intensive care unit at Memorial will also close and move to another location within Care New England's network.

The cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, R.I., are fighting against the proposal, and Sen. Conley is representing them.

"We're asking the court to enjoin the dismantling of Memorial Hospital and to make sure that those services continue while we go through the process of restructuring with Southcoast," said Sen. Conley, according to a WPRI news report.

Care New England and New Bedford, Mass.-based Southcoast Health System recently announced plans to join together under a new $2 billion-plus entity.

With the lawsuit pending, the Rhode Island Department of Health is conducting its formal review of the proposed cuts at Memorial. The agency began the review April 22 and has 90 days to decide whether to approve the reduction in services, according to the report.

Care New England President Dennis Keefe said the hope is that eliminating some services and relocating others will help reduce financial losses at Memorial. The hospital is losing about $2 million a month, according to WPRI.

When Care New England made its proposal in March, system officials told Memorial employees that the restructuring would result in layoffs. Memorial Hospital President Michael Dacey, MD, told WPRI that only 25 jobs are considered for cuts. The union representing nurses at Memorial believes closer to 200 jobs are on the line, according to the report.

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