Forum set Feb. 4 on L+M's bid to acquire Westerly Hospital

Westerly - A public hearing will take place Feb. 4 at the Westerly Armory on Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's application to acquire The Westerly Hospital.

The Rhode Island Department of Health and Attorney General's Office, the agencies that will be deciding on L+M's application, this week scheduled the hearing, even though the application is not yet considered complete, according to Dara Chadwick, health department spokeswoman.

In a Jan. 10 letter, the public health department asked L+M for information beyond what it had already submitted. The specific information requested was detailed in an attachment to the letter that is not public information, Chadwick said.

This is the second request Rhode Island officials have made to L+M for additional information for its application. The hospital filled the first request by providing information about recent layoffs, a $3.2 million budget gap, a 2010 incident involving the death of a child with a ruptured appendix and the resulting consent agreement with the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Mike O'Farrell, spokesman for L+M, said Monday that the hospital is working to answer as soon as possible the new request and have the application deemed complete so the review process can begin. When the court approved the $69 million sale, pending approval of the state agencies, L+M officials and the court-appointed attorney in charge of the Westerly Hospital receivership said they were hoping for a closing by the end of this month.

"Our interest is in getting this application complete as quickly as we can," O'Farrell said.

On Monday, Attorney Mark Russo, the court-appointed special master for the receivership, presented a report to Rhode Island Superior Court. In his report, Russo said he is working on a plan to ensure that obstetrics services at Westerly Hospital will be sustainable after the sale to L+M.

Currently, there are two obstetricians at Westerly, and concerns have been raised about the future of those services. The current volume of births at Westerly Hospital - about 300 per year - is not enough to sustain the obstetrics services without subsidies.

In an earlier report to the court, Russo said he had hired an obstetrics consultant to review that service.

Westerly Hospital's chief medical officer has established a "solutions committee" made up of obstetricians and pediatricians, Russo said in his report.

In the report presented Monday, Russo also said he has applied for approval to establish a "swing bed" program at Westerly Hospital, in which recovering acute-care patients would be able to transition to a lower level of care without having to move to a nursing home or other facility.

"We support his initiative," O'Farrell said.

In addition, Russo reported that Westerly Hospital physicians affiliated with the Atlantic Medical Group and Women's Health of Westerly have been offered employment in L+M Physicians Associates, the L+M affiliate that operates 19 primary care, internal medicine and specialist private practices.

j.benson@theday.com

If you go

What: Public hearing on Lawrence + Memorial Hospital's bid to acquire The Westerly Hospital
When: 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 4
Where: Westerly Armory, 8 Dixon St., Westerly
Hosts: Rhode Island Department of Health and Attorney General's Office

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