Disability Rights RI investigating discharge practices at Eleanor Slater Hospital

The former medical director of the Zambarano Unit also penned an open letter this week alleging that hospital administration told them to discharge all patients in June.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Disability Rights Rhode Island is investigating Eleanor Slater Hospital in regards to how they are discharging patients.

Local legislators are also calling for oversight of the state run hospital.

Though this investigation began more than a month ago, it was announced just this week following an open letter written by the former medical director at the Zambarano Unit in Burrillville, Dr. Normand Decelles Jr. It alleges that the state is discharging patients who shouldn’t be discharged to save money.

According to the open letter, hospital administration wanted all patients in the Zambarno unit discharged by this past June, adding that they’d restricted all admissions beginning last February.

The hospital is in Senator Jessica de la Cruz’s district.

“What we’d been hearing was that there was somewhat of a ‘shadow close’ where the hospital was closing but wasn’t really being forthright about it,” said de la Cruz.

Dr. Decelles, blamed this behavior on the hospital being in financial straits. He says they failed to computerize their records over the last ten years, and lost their federal funding because of it, which is about $65 million per year.

“It can be expensive to care for these patients because it’s not like a nursing home where you have a CNA or a nurse come in and check on them once and a while. They require intensive, round the clock care.”

Now, advocacy group Disability Rights Rhode Island is investigating the state run hospital that offers both psychiatric care in Cranston, and medical care for those with life altering conditions in Burrillville.

“We had a complaint from the community about a particular discharge,” explained Executive Director of Disability Rights Rhode Island Morna Murray. “We determined between our monitoring, and the complaint that we had, that we had probable cause to initiate an investigation.”

Dr. Decelles alleges that instead of addressing the financial issues at the hospital, medical staff was being pressured to discharge as many patients as possible.

He says many of the patients need specialized care that they can only get there, and that they cannot discharge patients that have not been accepted elsewhere.

“One of the things that we can investigate, obviously, is neglect, and within the definition of neglect in a federal statute is discharge plan,” said Murray. “And when we start hearing from people that maybe discharges are not going the way they should, that’s something we have to pay attention to.”

Decelles in his letter called it “emotional patient abuse,” to inform a patient who has been repeatedly rejected from other facilities that they will be discharged.

“We’ve got to get a plan, get them on the right track, receive that federal funding, and provide this essential service to Rhode Islanders who have nowhere else to go,” said de la Cruz.

Disability Rights Rhode Island wants to encourage anyone who may have any relevant information to the investigation to contact them. They say you can be kept anonymous.

ABC 6 reached out to the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals for comment, but has not heard back.

Legislators David Place and de la Cruz are also calling for oversight committee hearings regarding these accusations.

Categories: News, Rhode Island