Miriam Hospital seeing patient surge as Memorial winds down operations

Eyewitness News Investigates
Miriam Hospital_608635

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Miriam Hospital is seeing a significant increase in patient volume as nearby Memorial Hospital scales back its operations in advance of closing down, a senior executive at Miriam’s parent company said Tuesday.

Mamie Wakefield, chief financial officer at the Lifespan hospital group, said a review of Miriam patients’ zip codes shows “a great many” patients are coming from the Central Falls and Pawtucket areas that Memorial has historically served.

“We do believe we’re seeing a lot more of the emergency departments coming through,” Wakefield told Lifespan bondholders during a conference call. “We’re definitely seeing the ambulances come to us.”

The Miriam is a 247-bed hospital located about 3 miles from Memorial on Providence’s East Side, with roots in the city’s Jewish community. Memorial’s parent company, Care New England, announced plans to close the money-losing hospital in September and has been ordered to stop admitting patients.

The Memorial situation as well as other factors are straining capacity at Miriam. The East Side hospital’s average daily patient census has been 260 recently, higher than its total number of licensed beds, Wakefield said.

“It makes it hard,” she said.

Data provided by Lifespan shows the volume in Miriam’s emergency room jumped by 13% over the last five years, from 60,539 patients to 68,536. That increase was significantly larger than the 6% increase across the entire Lifespan system, which also includes Rhode Island Hospital and Newport Hospital. The number of discharges at Miriam is up 24% over the same period, from 15,002 to 18,572.

While the Miriam numbers stand out, Wakefield said patient volume has also been on the rise at Rhode Island and Newport.

“Rhode Island Hospital is a Level 1 trauma center and can never close to ambulances, but there have been a couple of times when we’ve gone to diversions on walk-ins at Rhode Island Hospital because so many people are waiting for a bed,” she said. Newport is usually at 50% occupancy but is close to 60% now, she said.

A 2013 state-commissioned study showed Rhode Island had roughly 200 more licensed hospital beds than it needed, but Wakefield noted that Memorial’s closure will take nearly 300 beds out of service.

“We’ve always said we have a lot more beds in the state,” she said. “We probably need to keep 100 of those but not all 300. So I think until we can figure everything out in the state, things are going to be a little tight.”

Overall, Wakefield said Lifespan is in healthy financial shape. She said its 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, produced “very solid” results, with operations generating net income of about $14.5 million.

“Overall, it was a pretty strong year for Lifespan,” she said.Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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