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Look for the General Assembly to flex its muscles on the Lifespan-Care New England merger

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey said Thursday he plans to introduce legislation that would revise the Hospital Conversions Act

Rhode Island Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey a Warwick Democrat, during the swearing in ceremony at Rhode Island College in January 2021.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

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Happy Friday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I miss the Providence Newspaper Guild Follies. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 125,185 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, after adding 387 new cases. The overall daily test-positive rate was 1.9 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 17.8 percent. The state announced 10 more deaths, bringing the total to 2,496. There were 163 people in the hospital, and 65,461 residents have been fully vaccinated.


The biggest news of the week in Rhode Island was that the proposed mega merger between Lifespan and Care New England is moving forward, and a single integrated health system with Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School is on the horizon.

While the plan still needs to win approval from the Federal Trade Commission, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the attorney general’s office, it appears that state lawmakers are also lining up to flex their muscles by adding a few late obstacles to the transaction.

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey said Thursday he plans to introduce legislation that would revise the Hospital Conversions Act to require the entities to disclose any staffing cuts or relocations that will be made as part of the deal and submit information about the health of any employee retirement programs. The health department and attorney general would be asked to consider those factors as part of their reviews.

McCaffrey’s proposal would also prohibit Lifespan and Care New England from seeking an expedited review of their application to merge. Jane Bruno, a spokeswoman for Lifespan, said the entities don’t intend to ask for an expedited review.


McCaffrey, a Warwick Democrat, has long said he fears that changes could be made to Kent County Hospital, and he said the goal is to require more transparency in the deal. Officials at Care New England, which runs Kent County Hospital, have said services won’t be disrupted, but McCaffrey said that the additional disclosures will help soothe his concerns.

”If they’re going to come together, I want to make sure people have the ability to get quality healthcare and I want the ability to make sure services aren’t being outsourced to other companies,” McCaffrey said.

It’s unclear how quickly McCaffrey’s bill will move through the legislature, and he acknowledged that he expects lobbyists for the hospitals to oppose it. But House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi also happens to be from Warwick, and he too has expressed concern about the future of Kent County Hospital. That means two of the most powerful politicians in the state will have an incentive to pass the legislation.

Bruno, the spokeswoman for Lifespan, said it would be premature to comment because the entities haven’t reviewed the bill. “We understand and appreciate the need for a transparent process and we will comply fully with all regulatory requirements,” Bruno said.


⚓ Rhode Island will soon open two additional mass vaccination sites: one in Middletown in what was once a Benny’s store, and one in Woonsocket, in a former Sears department store. Read more.


⚓ Under mounting pressure, the state Department of Labor and Training plans to release information next week about the extent of unemployment insurance fraud in Rhode Island. Read more.

⚓ Hasbro broke the internet on Thursday. Read more.

Amanda Milkovits has a nice profile of Bishop Jeffery Williams, who is still encouraging parishioners at the The King’s Cathedral to meet virtually during the pandemic. Read more.

⚓ Rhode Map readers have sent a round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Evelyn DeAscentis (97 and still crushing crosswords), Kelli Sullivan (31), Michael Milton, Bernie Stumpf (80), Rick Simone (48), David Preston, David Lamb (30), Greg Pare, Allan Fung, Megan Sullivan (26), Dana Borrelli-Murray, Dylan Conley, Toby Shepherd, Francis Chaves, Ben Neel (35), John and Leah Kiernan (26), Jeanne McAllister (24, I’m told), Ryan Pinch, Maryann Clark, Katie Alijewicz, Meaghan Joyce (34), Loren Doyle, Ken White (27), Peter Alviti (71), and Barbara Henshaw (63).


Health: Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday subjected Governor Charlie Baker to the most public — and intense — vetting of his administration’s handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout to date, highlighted by testy exchanges between the Republican and Democratic legislators with whom he’s rarely jousted so openly. Read more.

Education: The Globe’s editorial board backs Governor Baker’s effort to reopen schools for in-person learning. Read more.

Politics: My colleague Liz Goodwin reports that tensions are high in Congress as Democrats want election-denying Republicans to face consequences. Read more.


Sports: A limited number of fans will be allowed to enter TD Garden, Fenway Park, and Gillette Stadium beginning March 22. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at

⚓ I was a guest on “Political Roundtable” this morning on The Public’s Radio with Ian Donnis, Maureen Moakley, and Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo. You can listen here.

⚓ Incoming Governor Dan McKee and Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor will discuss changes to Paycheck Protection Program loans at noon at Navigant Credit Union’s corporate headquarters in Smithfield.

⚓Need something fun to do this weekend? Check out the exhibition in honor of the life and legacy of Howard Ben Tré at the WaterFire Arts Center. It runs until March 7.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.