NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — The family of a Newport Hospital surgeon is heartbroken after a chapel built at the hospital in his honor was dismantled and moved.
Jimmy Roggero said the Dr. Charles Serbst Memorial Chapel, named after his grandfather, was created in 1971. Serbst passed away from lung cancer in 1969.
Roggero said Serbst was a prisoner of war during World War II. He returned home to be a thoracic surgeon at Newport Hospital.
“He passed away when I was five, but I’ve gotten to know him from people, like the 6,000 people that reached out to me on Facebook, of their personal stories,” Roggero said. “From polio to Wallum Lake when it had tuberculosis. He was one of the big doctors that helped out in the tuberculosis outbreak.”
A spokesperson from Newport Hospital tells Eyewitness News the decision to move the chapel stemmed from an upgrade and consolidation of its women’s health services to the hospital’s first floor.
“This consolidation of services will allow us to substantially enhance the quality of the care we provide to women, including expectant mothers,” the spokesperson said. “The new floor plans necessarily included movement of other patient-facing services into the room which housed the chapel. The new location, while smaller, was chosen for its proximity to the prior one, preserving ease of patient and family access.”
Despite the changes, the hospital said it will continue to honor Serbst by placing a commemorative plaque near the former chapel.
Roggero tells Eyewitness News he didn’t know about the hospital’s decision to move the chapel until he heard about it from a friend.
When he went to see it for himself, he was in disbelief.
“I was able to get my grandfather’s portrait that was hanging there since 1971 because I didn’t want it to end up in a dumpster or a storage unit like some of the stuff has already,” Roggero said.
Roggero said he’s disappointed the hospital didn’t consult him, his family or the community before moving the chapel. He believes the new space is too small to accommodate the community who regularly utilizes the chapel.
“It’s a little disheartening to think that they hurt the community in a way, and these are the people they’re supposed to be helping when they walk through the door, and now they’ve actually hurt them,” Roggero said.
“It’s not about my family or my grandfather, Dr. Serbst,” he added. “It’s about how many people this room has helped since ’71, and they’re taking that away from those people.”
Roggero said he and other community members are working together to come up with other ways to honor Serbst’s memory.