CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of Rhode Island’s second largest hospital group said Tuesday he expects the field hospital in Cranston to start accepting patients the Monday after Thanksgiving as coronavirus cases surge in the state.

Care New England President and CEO Dr. James Fanale said despite staffing problems, he anticipates the field hospital at Sockanesset Cross Road to be up and running early next week to alleviate the strain regular hospitals are facing.

“Everybody has gone to outside agencies to bring staff in at a fairly significant cost,” Fanale said. “One of our agencies walked away over the weekend because they didn’t have anyone left.” 

“This is happening across the country — everybody is looking for extra staffing,” he added.

Larry Lepore, the general manager of the R.I. Convention Center – where another field hospital is located – told board members at a meeting Tuesday he has been told to expect patients there at the start of next month.

“Every indication from Lifespan is the hospital will go active Dec. 1, with patients arriving that day,” Lepore said.

Care New England – which owns Kent, Women & Infants and Butler hospitals – is operating the Cranston field hospital while Lifespan – owner of Rhode Island, Newport, Miriam and Bradley – is tasked with running the Convention Center location.

Fanale said one of the major challenges hospitals are facing is getting nursing homes to accept patients that are ready to be discharged. With people lingering longer in the hospital – and COVID-positive hospitalizations on a significant rise – there is often a bottleneck of patients.

Fanale said the opening of the field hospitals should help alleviate the demand on beds.

“This is not an acute staffing pattern at the field hospital,” Fanale said. “This is a group of people that are at the end of their hospital stay.” 

“It’s going to be safe,” he added. “We are not going to put people at risk in the field hospital. We’ll make sure we transfer the right patients, and we’ll have the staff to take care of those patients.”

Tim White ( is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.