State budget envisions $108 million for new building at Zambarano, de la Cruz applauds effort

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PROVIDENCE – Gov. Dan McKee’s proposed budget for the state would see some $145 million allocated to the Eleanor Slater Hospital system, with $108 million to fund construction of a new facility in Burrillville.

The proposed fiscal plan, which now goes before the General Assembly, calls for a new long-term acute care and skilled nursing facility to replace the current Beazley building, and comes after more that a year of questions and pleas from local lawmakers regarding the hospital’s future.

Sen. Jessica de la Cruz, who has been a vocal advocate on behalf of the, “hospital of last resort,” and its patients, applauded the plan. The current minority whip, who represents District 23 in Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield said Thursday that she was thrilled to learn the news.

“Our first—and most important—responsibility is to help people who cannot help themselves,” de la Cruz said. “It is such a relief that Zam patients and their families will finally get the desperately- needed repairs to this beloved facility.  Under this proposal, more than $108 million will be allocated to build a new facility on the Burrillville campus by 2028 and millions more for necessary updates.”

de la Cruz has been working to prevent the closure of the hospital, which she notes provides crucial care unavailable anywhere else in the state to extremely vulnerable patients. 

“This is a huge win for the patients, their families, and the state of Rhode Island,” she said. “This isn’t just a band-aid fix—the improvements we will be making will benefit generations of Rhode Islanders to come. This is a great start in strengthening our infrastructure to support our most vulnerable people.”

Turmoil has been swirling at Zambarano, where years of neglect has left the facilities in disrepair, which de la Cruz noted has at times placed patients and staff in unsafe conditions. The new facility will have 80 long-term acute care beds and 20 skilled-nursing beds.

Nearly $50 million in funds would be allocated in the short term to upgrade ventilators, move the hospital to an electronic record-keeping system, provide utilities/wastewater improvements, and buy new patient-transport vehicles, according to the governor’s plan.

“When I was first elected in 2018, I was asked at freshman orientation what the most important issue in my district was,” said de la Cruz. “My answer was then—and still is now—it’s Zambarano. We’re going to build this, and we’re going to build it right.”

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