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RI HEALTH

McKee administration puts hold on plans for major changes at Eleanor Slater Hospital

The state was pursuing plans to close the hospital facility at Zambarano and build a new skilled nursing facility there at a cost of $65 million.

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 — Governor Dan McKee’s administration is putting a hold on plans to dramatically reshape the state-run hospital for people with complex medical and psychiatric needs.

His office said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones will look at department plans and changes for Eleanor Slater Hospital that were developed under McKee’s predecessor, Gina Raimondo.

The plans outlined in consultant Alvarez & Marsal’s report “will be put on hold so that we can have real and thoughtful dialogue and engagement with the community, stakeholders, and the General Assembly on what the best solutions are to provide high quality care that meets the needs of Rhode Islanders seeking these vital services,” McKee spokesman Matt Sheaff said in an email.

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Eleanor Slater Hospital has units in Burrillville, referred to as the Zambarano unit, and in Cranston. The system is run by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. That department’s head, Kathryn Power, resigned earlier this month, and Jones was tasked with reviewing the department and making recommendations to McKee.

Based on Alvarez & Marsal’s report, the state was pursuing plans to close the hospital facility at Zambarano and build a new skilled nursing facility there at a cost of $65 million. The state was also planning to close the Regan building and the Adolph Meyer building, both on the Cranston campus.

Power had defended the plans, saying the hospital system was woefully outdated and needed major changes. Under the law and in the best interest of patients, the state needed to find the least-restrictive setting possible for its most vulnerable people, Power repeatedly argued. But the plans faced major backlash from unions representing workers at the hospital, from local legislators and from advocates for patients there. In the meantime, Peter Neronha, the state attorney general, said he is investigating the situation.

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McKee’s budget proposal, as publicly outlined shortly after he took office, included plans along the lines of the ones outlined in the Alvarez & Marsal report, but now he is putting them on hold.

Rep. David Place and Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, Republican lawmakers who have been sounding alarms about the plans at Zambarano, are planning to meet with McKee’s staff on Tuesday about Eleanor Slater, Place said.


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