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RI HEALTH

McKee hoping Eleanor Slater Hospital can maintain accreditation

Joint Commission has issued preliminary denial of accreditation for state’s hospital of last resort for people with complex medical and psychiatric needs

The Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, Rhode Island.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee on Tuesday said he is hoping the state can address the problems that prompted a national group to issue a preliminary denial of accreditation for Eleanor Slater Hospital.

In a June 18 letter, the Joint Commission threatened to deny accreditation to Eleanor Slater, which serves as the state’s hospital of last resort for people with complex medical and psychiatric needs.

“The Joint Commission finds it necessary to take this action based on the survey observations and findings that identified conditions that pose a serious threat to public or patient health and safety,” the letter stated.

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The Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, cited three problems areas at Eleanor Slater:

∙ “Lack of governing body support to ensure a safe patient care environment that supports patient rights.”

∙ “Ongoing lack of leadership action to prioritize and address culture of safety concerns identified in culture of safety assessments.”

∙ “Lack of a process to address and ensure completion of backlogged physical plant maintenance requests.”

In his weekly news conference, McKee said the state has been given 23 days, beginning from last Friday, to put in place a “corrective strategy,” and officials expect to meet that deadline.

McKee emphasized that the Joint Commission’s findings were preliminary, and he said the organization made similar “recommendations” in 2017.

McKee said he believes Eleanor Slater will end up holding onto its accreditation. “We are going to activate the resources that it takes to make sure that we maintain the accreditation,” he said.

He said he met with Richard Charest, who recently took over the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, and with Womazetta Jones, the state’s health and human services secretary. “They believe we are headed in the direction where we will be able to satisfy the conditions in the report,” he said.

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But McKee acknowledged how crucial accreditation is for the financially troubled hospital, which has been at the center of speculation and controversy. “You need accreditation or else you are not going to get federal dollars in terms of the Medicare dollars,” he said.

The governor said he was disturbed by testimony during Tuesday’s Senate oversight committee in which current hospital officials accused past leaders of fudging patient data to maintain federal funding and doctors who had resigned in protest over changes at the hospital denied manipulating data.

“It’s disturbing that there is such a disagreement among professionals,” McKee said. “Our job is to really zero down in terms of who it is we are going to believe.” He said, “There is certainly an uncertainty on who to believe.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.