OP-ED

Protecting Kent’s patients, workers is paramount

By House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey
Posted 5/10/22

Securing the future of Kent Hospital is essential for the health of our community.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders in Warwick and beyond depend on Kent’s services, from emergency care to cancer …

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OP-ED

Protecting Kent’s patients, workers is paramount

Posted

Securing the future of Kent Hospital is essential for the health of our community.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders in Warwick and beyond depend on Kent’s services, from emergency care to cancer treatment. Hundreds of dedicated professionals and volunteers – our neighbors, friends and family members – make up the workforce at the hospital, which is one of the area’s largest employers. Often, they have been part of the staff for decades.

Over the course of a pandemic that has caused so much pain and loss, despite the unimaginable strain and heartbreak that came with keeping the hospital running day after day, the commitment of Kent’s dedicated employees never wavered. For that, we can never adequately express our gratitude.

The threat of a private, for-profit entity with more interest in profits than people taking control of this indispensable, nonprofit community institution is one we have taken extremely seriously as leaders at the State House.

As Care New England continues to explore options for its future – and knowing that Kent and other institutions hang in the balance, both in CNE’s network and beyond – we remain deeply committed to protecting patients, preserving jobs, and ensuring the stability of our health care system.

Whatever solution ultimately emerges must be in the best interest of the people Kent serves, and of all those who make Kent’s work possible. Whatever entity ultimately takes on stewardship of the hospital must be responsible and accountable, committed to the highest quality of care and to Kent’s place in our community.

The proposed merger between Lifespan and Care New England, which was recently rejected by federal regulators and the state Attorney General, offered one potential path forward. We acknowledge that a compelling case was made for the creation of a unified academic medical system in Rhode Island along with the partnership of Brown University, an arrangement advocates argued would maintain local ownership and enhance care.

Ultimately, it was determined by the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission that the risks to patients and workers were too great, and we accept that finding. We rely on the judgment of the regulators, who have the necessary expertise, resources, experience and authority under the law to conduct extremely thorough reviews of transactions like the Lifespan-Care New England merger.

We understand the frustration many feel, particularly given the prior failure of Boston-based Partners HealthCare’s agreement to buy Care New England. It may seem that decision-makers have rejected workable plans without offering alternative solutions.

We believe the scope of what is at stake is too great, the implications too far-reaching, to be left subject to purely political considerations, or to be decided based solely on the public cases – appealing though they have often been – made by the parties involved. We must establish, and trust in, a process that is deliberate, comprehensive, and above all focused on the needs of our state. We must carefully consider every risk and every benefit, particularly with transactions that impact such a significant portion of our health care system.

It is for these very reasons that in recent years, we have joined with other lawmakers to seek improvements to Rhode Island’s Hospital Conversion Act. In 2018, for example, Gov. Raimondo signed legislation approved by the General Assembly that strengthened investigatory powers and improved transparency in the HCA process. We are in the process of weighing the merits of additional legislation that is pending before us.

As legislators, we will continue to monitor the status of our state’s health care system and the ways in which we can strengthen the law to protect patients and workers. We will explore all available avenues to stabilize and strengthen Kent and other vital institutions. We will keep our doors open to all stakeholders – especially, and always, to the health care professionals whose work makes such a difference in so many lives.

Kent’s future has important implications for everyone in Rhode Island. For the residents of Warwick, it’s an especially critical issue. We are committed to doing everything within our means to ensure the hospital’s future is bright, and that it remains a vibrant, treasured part of our community for decades to come.

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