PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Care New England and the union that represents nurses at Memorial Hospital said Monday they have reached an agreement laying out what medical services the company will continue to provide in Pawtucket once the facility closes as a hospital.
As part of the negotiated deal, the United Nurses and Allied Professionals said Care New England will preserve up to 200 jobs in Pawtucket after it gives up Memorial’s hospital license, and the company said the number could be higher. The union is also withdrawing a lawsuit filed earlier this month to halt Memorial’s effort to close.
“We are pleased that this agreement creates a tangible plan for the continuation of important health care services and jobs in Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley,” Chris Callaci, the union’s general counsel, said in a statement. “Part of the agreement requires the parties to actively work with local officials in reaching out to the community to advance this model and the UNAP looks forward to doing its part.”
Care New England announced plans to close Memorial in September, citing declining patient numbers and tens of millions of dollars in losses. But executives have repeatedly said they planned to continue offering some standalone services in Pawtucket such as family medicine even without a full-scale hospital there.
“As we move forward with this plan, we do so with a patient- and community-centered focus demonstrating our commitment to the Blackstone Valley and health care throughout the entire state,” Dr. James Fanale, Care New England’s incoming CEO, said in a statement. “This means we must adapt to the changes by moving towards the future of health care.”
Care New England officials said the plan was the result of extensive talks involving not only the union but also the offices of Gov. Gina Raimondo and Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien. Fanale said a new walk-in clinic for those needing primary or urgent care was added to the plan at the urging of the elected leaders.
“The plan released today is comprehensive and will ensure that Rhode Islanders in Pawtucket and across Blackstone Valley continue to have access to high-quality health services,” Raimondo said in a statement.
The final resolution of Memorial’s future has major implications for the future of Care New England, which is in advanced talks to merge with Partners HealthCare, the largest hospital group in Massachusetts. Care New England had originally planned to spin off Memorial to a different company, but that deal fell apart in September. Partners has said it is waiting to see the final cost of closing Memorial before deciding whether to go through with the Care New England takeover.
Care New England said the medical services that will remain in Pawtucket once Memorial closes include the walk-in clinic; Family Care and Internal Medicine Centers with primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants offering outpatient services; ancillary services such as X-rays and mammograms; potentially some specialty physicians; and some residencies for medical students.
While the various services would be offered in Pawtucket, they would technically be authorized under the hospital licenses of two other Care New England hospitals, Kent and Women & Infants, according to the company. It’s possible the services will eventually move from Memorial’s nearly 600,000-square-foot campus to a renovated building elsewhere in Pawtucket, the company said.
In a detailed breakdown of its plan, Care New England warned that the proposed plan for Memorial’s campus “requires vigilant attention to ensuring the set of services is cost-efficient, flexible, and adaptable to changes in the competitive environment and not overly encumbered with mandates. If not, the risk of financial catastrophe remains.”
“For example, requiring a minimum number of physicians or employees makes little sense if the patients seeking services declines due to accelerated competition in the area or if a new model of care emerges,” the statement continued.
However, Callaci said the union hopes the Department of Health will make the provisions of its agreement with Care New England a condition of allowing Memorial to close.Ted Nesi (email@example.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 FacebookSteph Machado contributed to this report.