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RI HEALTH

Kitchen at Eleanor Slater Hospital shut down after fire marshal inspection finds unsafe conditions

Staff at the state-run hospital’s Zambarano unit are cooking for patients on outdoor grills as the state addresses the issues

Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I, on Feb. 21, 2021.
Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I, on Feb. 21, 2021.DAVID DEGNER/NYT

PROVIDENCE — The Zambarano unit of Eleanor Slater Hospital, the state-run facility in Burrillville that has been the focus of recent scrutiny, had to shut some of its kitchen operations after the state fire marshal inspection found unsafe conditions last week.

According to a state fire marshal report dated March 19, the cooking exhaust system wasn’t ventilating cooking vapors and didn’t have the required two-hour fire rating separation to contain a fire. Interior portions of the exhaust system between the basement and fourth-floor attic also hadn’t been properly cleaned; getting to those inaccessible areas would also lessen the buildup of combustible grease, the report found.

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The report comes at a time of acute sensitivity about what some call the “hospital of last resort” for people with complex medical and psychiatric needs as the state considers major changes to Eleanor Slater.

But the state said the problems were flagged during an inspection that they’d requested.

Randal Edgar, a spokesman for the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, said in an emailed statement that the kitchen staff can still use steamers and a steam kettle, but can’t use the deep fryer, flat top grill or oven range to cook food for patients. The staff are also using outside grills for food, Edgar said.

“Many of the same menu options are still available and patients continue to have two menu options with each meal,” Edgar said. “The revised menu was approved by RIDOH.”

Edgar said the state hopes to have the full kitchen back open in about a week. Edgar also said the duct work had been cleaned once every three months, and would be cleaned again Saturday. The exhaust system fan is also being sent out for repair, Edgar said.

The hospital, and its condition, has been the subject of concern and debate.

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Eleanor Slater is a state-run hospital with facilities in Burrillville and Cranston. The state is planning to build a new $65 million facility in Burrillville, which would have a skilled nursing license, instead of the Zambarano’s current hospital license. The state also wants to shut buildings at the facility in Cranston, which is geared toward psychiatric patients.

Some, including local politicians, unions representing hundreds of workers and advocates for patients, have opposed the state’s plans. Just Monday night, a Senate oversight committee held a four-hour hearing on the issue.

The state said the hospital is, in general, “stuck in the past,” still relying on paper records and with outdated buildings.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.