PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Care New England suffered a significant financial loss in its 2019-20 fiscal year, after receiving less help than its bigger rival Lifespan from a flood of federal assistance money.

Rhode Island’s No. 2 hospital system posted a $13 million net loss for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, a reversal from the $8 million profit it booked last year, when the organization was having some success in stemming years of red ink.

Care New England, a not-for-profit corporation, owns Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals and is one of Rhode Island’s major employers.

The results strictly from Care New England’s day-to-day operations — which excludes investment income — looked even worse, swinging from a $3.8 million operating profit last year to a $28 million operating loss this year. The bottom line for the year was nearly as bad as the $28 million operating loss Care New England suffered two years ago, back in 2017-18.

Total patient service revenue at Care New England has fallen by almost $100 million in the last two years, from just over $1 billion in 2017-18 to $910.5 million in 2019-20. Patient discharges across the system dropped from 32,000 last year to 29,500 this year, with annual emergency room visits plummeting 18%.

“Care New England, like many other health systems, struggled financially this year despite the best efforts of all involved,” CNE spokesperson Jessica McCarthy said in a statement. “In the prior year, we were able to turn around the finances that had previously struggled, but with that success there was not a great amount of room for something like a pandemic that would strip our finances.”

Lifespan – the owner of Rhode Island Hospital as well as Miriam, Newport and Bradley – announced more positive results earlier this week, reporting a $21 million profit thanks in large part to a huge infusion of federal and state aid appropriated under the CARES Act.

Care New England also received substantial assistance from the CARES Act, booking $62 million in government grants tied to offsetting the pandemic. But unlike at Lifespan, it was not enough to put Care New England in the black.

“Care New England’s main hospital units – Butler Hospital, Kent and Women and Infants Hospital – were not benefited substantially by the CARES funding since that funding was funneled toward units that specifically cared for COVID-19 patients,” McCarthy said.

“Despite the fact that not all hospitals saw funding for COVID-19 patients, all of our hospital units saw a hit from people delaying care throughout the pandemic that has now gone on for close to a year,” she continued.

Release of the financial results comes as Lifespan and Care New England are once again in active talks to join forces. The two organizations signed a letter of intent to merge on Sept. 8 and are currently engaged in a due diligence period.

Care New England executives said the two sides’ current goal is to have a definitive agreement for the merger in place by the end of January. A tie-up of the two hospital giants, which they’ve failed to consummate repeatedly before, would need state and federal approval.

Separately, Care New England is proceeding with efforts to sell much of the old campus of Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, which was shuttered in 2017 after years of losses. The property is slated to be purchased by a developer that plans to turn it into a facility for veterans. The sale is expected to close this month.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook