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Concerns raised about discharges at state-run hospital

March 5, 2021 GMT

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (AP) — Disability rights organizations as well as public officials are raising concerns about Rhode Island’s efforts to reduce the patient population at a state-run medical facility that treats residents with long-term medical and psychiatric needs.

Dr. Normand Decelles Jr., who recently retired from the Eleanor Slater Hospital’s Zambarano campus in Burrillville after 20 years, wrote an open letter that said the state was trying to save money by discharging patients who have few, if any, care alternatives.

State Rep. David Place and Sen. Jessica de la Cruz — both Republicans whose districts include parts of Burrillville — went public Thursday with their concerns.

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They met with new Gov. Daniel McKee, a Democrat, about their concerns, but his administration has not announced any decisions about the facility.

Town officials have also expressed concern about the future of patients and employees, and said they have not been consulted about any changes at Zambarano.

Disability Rights Rhode Island, a federally mandated independent agency that serves as a legal advocate for people with disabilities, says it has been investigating the facility’s discharge practices since February.

The state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which operates the facility, in a statement said “decisions related to discharge are made on a clinical basis according to each patient’s healthcare needs — and not on any other basis.”

Spokesperson Randal Edgar said as patients have been discharged, two floors at the facility are being ​temporarily consolidated to ​“simply ensure efficient use of resources.” No staff have been laid off or reassigned, he said.