PROVIDENCE — The budget proposal Governor Dan McKee unveiled Thursday would fund a new long-term acute care and skilled nursing facility at the state-run hospital system in Burrillville, among nearly $170 million in upgrades over seven years for Eleanor Slater Hospital.
Plans to build a new facility in Burrillville to replace the current Beazley building there have been years in the making. Similar proposals were developed under then-governor Gina Raimondo but were tabled as McKee’s administration took a fresh look amid scrutiny from local lawmakers and some patients’ families.
McKee’s budget would move ahead along similar but not identical lines: Burrillville would host a newly built combined long-term acute care hospital and skilled nursing facility, McKee’s administration said. The Burrillville project alone would account for more than $108 million of the nearly $170 million dedicated for Eleanor Slater. The new facility would have 100 beds, with 80 of them as long-term acute care hospital beds and 20 as skilled nursing facility beds.
“It’s long past time to make meaningful investments that will provide higher quality care for the patients, better conditions for the staff, and tackle decades of deferred maintenance,” McKee said in a written statement. “I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this done.”
One of the skeptics of earlier plans to change the facility in Burrillville welcomed McKee’s budget proposal.
““This is a huge win for the patients, their families, and the State of Rhode Island,” said state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, a Republican lawmaker representing the area.
The decision represents another move toward broader changes in the Eleanor Slater Hospital system, whose 200 or so patients have a variety of psychological and medical needs. Some have conditions like ALS or suffer long-term car crash injuries. Others have been ordered by criminal or civil courts for mental health treatment. It has been under scrutiny for more than a year, with leadership shake-ups and accusations, from those who have been pushed out, that the state isn’t prioritizing its most vulnerable.
The current Burrillville campus’ problems include fire hazards, which not only present hypothetical dangers but have led to everyday problems like reductions in the types of food patients there are offered because kitchen equipment was so covered in grease.
Because the new building on the Zambarano campus would not be opened right away, the state would continue to invest in the Beazley site for immediate needs before it’s decommissioned. Another $17.5 million would go to upgrades to buildings, equipment and utilities at the Burrillville campus and the installation of a ventilator unit at the Beazley building.
The budget would also create an electronic records system at the state-run hospital system, at a cost of $22.4 million. It would replace the existing (and antiquated) paper records system in use there now.
And nearly $20 million from existing debt proceeds would go toward repairs at the Regan building in Cranston.
The state projects a more than $600 million surplus for the 2022 fiscal year. McKee is proposing to move $210 million to the capital plan fund to support the upgrades at Eleanor Slater and other facilities.
Brian Amaral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.