Officials: Decision on upkeep of Memorial facility a win for the city

Officials: Decision on upkeep of Memorial facility a win for the city

PAWTUCKET – It might seem like a minor win for the city after the loss of Memorial Hospital, say officials, but a decision to prohibit Care New England from boarding up the closed hospital is a significant achievement in their goal to protect Pawtucket’s interests going forward.

City Councilor John Barry III said allowing CNE to board up the hospital and shut off the heat would have had a terrible impact visually on the neighborhood and city as a whole and made it more difficult to reopen the hospital in the future.

The Rhode Island Fire Safety Code Board of Appeal and Review last week decided to require CNE to maintain its Memorial Hospital site as part of the hospital’s closure plan. The decision came on the heels of Mayor Donald Grebien and city officials’ push to prevent CNE from shuttering the hospital with 750 sheets of plywood and turning off the heat.

“I am pleased that we were able to ensure that CNE did not board up and shut off the heat at Memorial Hospital, which would have not only created an eyesore in one of our great neighborhoods, but made the site a fire hazard and threat to the public,” said Grebien. “We stopped them in large part due to the hard work of our public safety director, our fire department, the office of the state fire marshal, the governor and the fire safety code board. I would also like to thank Councilman John Barry and the City Council for all of their help in making sure the site is maintained.”

“It is important that we stand up to CNE and protect our neighborhood,” said Barry. “We remain committed to working with Mayor Grebien to restore the quality emergency services that our city residents need and deserve.”

City officials are not discussing what progress they’ve made in potentially restoring health services at the closed hospital, though they’ve confirmed that discussions are ongoing.

CharterCARE Health Partners previously had interest in buying the property, and it is believed that the company is still in the mix if CNE is willing to sell.

The closing of Memorial early this year has led to crowded emergency rooms and other issues at other area hospitals.

CNE’s original plan to board up the site would have presented numerous issues to the surrounding neighborhood beyond aesthetics, according to Grebien. Serious fire hazard concerns loomed over a large campus site left with no fire alarm system or sprinkler system.

Regarding the six-story building, Pawtucket Fire Chief William Sisson noted, “If a fire alarm system is shut down, there is grave concern of a potential fire starting and the department not getting notified in an adequate amount of time before the incident increases in intensity.”

Other concerns that would have posed risks included no HVAC system, a deteriorating roof, unhealthy air, and a buildup of sewer gases. CNE will also be required to maintain 24-hour security with patrols, cameras and daily walk-throughs of the hospital.

While the building will now be heated and safe throughout the winter, Grebien stated that he will continue to hold CNE accountable to their commitments under the plan.

“The board’s decision to not allow CNE to board up the site is a great win for the city, but there is still much more work to be done,” he said. “We will continue working closely with the governor’s office and the Department of Health so that CNE will abide by all of the stipulations placed in the closing plan.”

The closed Memorial Hospital Campus will be entirely heated during the winter season to prevent decay and to maintain operations of the fire suppression and fire alarm systems. CNE will also maintain around-the-clock security with patrols, cameras, and a daily walk through of the hospital, and must continue to maintain all facilities up to code. Periodic inspections start this month.