Letter by retired doctor alleges ‘shadow closure’ of Zambarano

de la Cruz, Place call on hospital to keep doors open

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PROVIDENCE – Legislators fighting to keep Zambarano Hospital open say they’ve received, “explosive,” confirmation of the rumors the state intends to close the skilled care facility, and to discharge patients unable to receive care anywhere else.

Senate Minority Whip Jessica de la Cruz, a Republican representing District 23 in Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield, and Rep. David Place, a Republican representing District 47 in Burrillville and Glocester, released a letter from a former doctor at the hospital this week.

According to recently-retired physician administrator/medical director Normand Decelles, hospital administrators began planning the closure last year under the guise the services were not needed, when in fact administrative failure to modernize health records led to federal funding being cut off. Decelles says officials began pressuring physicians to discharge patients even though doctors could find no facilities to accept them.

“Because they never invested in a computerized records system, they lost federal funding. Normally, the federal government provides 80 percent of the hospital’s funding…now they have lost $65million a year,” Decelles reportedly told the legislators.

“This is a shocking and appalling failure to follow basic instructions to modernize health records. When they failed to meet federal standards, hospital administrators began an organized campaign to dump these patients out of their home, where they receive care they cannot get anywhere else,” de la Cruz said. “I am absolutely flabbergasted this now resulted in patient abuse. We need to put a stop to this to keep these patients where they are.”

The legislators are calling for both the House and Senate oversight committees to convene hearings on these troubling accusations. They are further calling on the Rhode Island: Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals administration to freeze all discharges. Additionally, they want administrators to cease efforts to make, “qualifying for care,” at Zambarano impossible for everyone – including current residents.

Place noted that BHDDH officials claimed the inability to bill was based on ‘patient census issues.’

“Dr. Decelles’s comments about failure of the agency to create medical records systems calls into question the BHDDH administration’s integrity,” Place said.

Decelles penned a detailed, open letter describing, “numerous falsehoods … which make it necessary to write.”

“I wish to address allegations and judgments by some hospital administrators that Zambarano is not necessary, that current patients should never have been admitted, that those admitted were not properly vetted, and that patients must now leave because they fail newly-developed hospital ‘criteria for admission,'” Decelles wrote.

The full letter can be viewed here.

With funding gone, hospital administration, “wanted 100 percent of patients discharged by June 2020,” according to the doctor. With just 85 patients left, the doctor said the drop in patient census at Zambarano is due to the lack of new admissions and deaths.

“It is not a reflection of the lack of need for our services in RI. Very appropriate candidates for admission are now frozen in Rhode Island’s acute hospital beds with no discharge options,” the doctor said.

Further, Decelles said staff is being reduced at the facility to the point where there will soon not be enough physicians on staff to care for the patients.

“My other concern is there is so much we don’t know because we aren’t being told – they’re letting staff go – they’ve laid off one doctor, more are retiring…they will be down to two physicians to manage the whole population,” Decelles said.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, meanwhile, released a statement in support of the hospital in light of recent news.

“The recent reduction of the patient census at Zambarano hospital and rumors of permanent reduction of service… are troubling,” Magaziner noted. “We must ensure it remains fully operational.”

De la Cruz and Place said they are eager to work with the McKee administration to keep Zambarano patients where they belong, and will continue communicating with the department and the governor to find solutions.

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