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1,000 St. Joseph Retirees Hear Horrors of Impact of Pension Fund Collapse

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Former RI AG Arlene Violet

An estimated 1,000 St. Joseph Health Services retirees attended a presentation by receiver Stephen Del Sesto, a host of other attorneys, and union officials at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet on Monday.

The crowd heard about the hideous impact of the fund's collapse on retirees.

Arlene Violet told the story of a 99-year-old retired nurse from St. Joseph's, who worked for the hospital for 50 years and earns in pension payments $209 dollars a month and now faces a 40 percent cut in her benefits.

“The bad guys have to pony up the money to make folks whole,” said Violet, who is the past has singled out the Diocese of Providence, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, CharterCARE for failure to protect retirees and fulfill their responsibilities.

“Are we going to ask her (the 99-year-old) retiree to go back to work?” asked Violet.

“Shame on those responsible.”

Receiver Del Sesto Gives Overview

The meeting began with an overview by Del Sesto who outlined the process and told the crowd that ultimately the different classes of retirees would need to separate into distinct groups.

Del Sesto outlined the process going forward and that the next milestone will be an October 11 court appearance before Judge Brian Stern. Del Sesto said, “Everyone in this room has been harmed.”

An estimated 1,000 attended meeting at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet

Then, Del Sesto heard from the audience, who fired questions ranging from the failure of the Diocese of Providence to properly fund the pension fund to why didn’t Kilmartin protect their interests.

A number of speakers pointed the finger at CharterCARE who is owned by for-profit healthcare giant Prospect. CharterCARE purchased St.Joseph in 2014 and in that transaction left the pension fund orphaned. The transaction was reviewed and approved under the Hospital Conversion Act and approved by Kilmartin.

Bishop Tobin refuses to answer questions, but has pronounced that he is "praying" for retirees

Jack Callaci, Director, Collective Bargaining and Organizing for the United Nurses & Allied Professionals (UNAP)  -- which is a regional healthcare union representing approximately 6,500 nurses, technologists, therapists, support staff, and other healthcare workers employed in Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut --  said the group needed to be diligent in taking its message to the Diocese and CharterCARE and others responsible to "keep their promise."

CharterCARE refused to answer questions about the comments made by retirees.

The Diocese of Providence has repeatedly refused to answer questions about its role in the pension fund's collapse, but Bishop Thomas Tobin has announced that he is "praying" for retirees.


Related Slideshow: 10 Things to Know About One of Biggest Pension Failures in RI - St. Joseph Bankruptcy

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Biggest Pension Failure Ever in Rhode Island?

There is not a record book, but according to a number of top bankruptcy attorneys, the failure of the St. Joseph Health Services Pension Fund impacts the most individuals and the adverse financial impact will be the highest percentage impact to the retirees' monthly payments in Rhode Island history. 

In Central Falls, by 2014 then-Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation that upped police and fire beneficiaries to 75 percent of their benefits. The cost of the legislation —  post-Central Falls bankruptcy — was $4.8 million.

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Kilmartin’s Role in the Hospital Conversion Act

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin won’t answer questions about his role in the approval of the Hospital Conversion of St. Joseph Health Services to CharterCare. GoLocal has repeatedly reached out to Kilmartin to answer questions, without response.

As part of the review of the deal, Kilmartin, as Attorney General, had the responsibility to review and approve the financial viability of the transaction. The Hospital Conversion law is very specific to the responsibilities of Kilmartin and his office.

"The department of attorney general [is] to preserve and protect public and charitable assets in reviewing both hospital conversions which involve for-profit corporations and hospital conversions which include only not-for-profit corporations.”

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Number Impacted

The bankruptcy of St. Joseph Health Services pension fund will impact between 3,600 and 3,800 existing or future pensioners — and the loss of pension payments may be 40 percent, according to court-appointed receiver Steven Del Sesto, a partner at Donoghue Barrett & Singal.

However, Del Sesto said the plan for winding down the pension fund is only in the preliminary phase. 

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How Many Are Presently Receiving Benefits

According to the receiver, attorney Stephen Del Sesto, there are 1382 active/vested who have reached retirement date; 639 active/vested who reached early retirement, for a total of 2,021.

On average, retirees are receiving just $425 between the two classes. The retirees are facing a 40 percent reduction — thus, the average retiree would receive just $255 per month.

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Kilmartin Called the Plan "Best Interest of...Employees"

At the time of the agreement in 2014, Kilmartin said, “The transacting parties have worked diligently to provide regulators with the necessary documentation and information throughout this review process to make this decision, a decision I believe is in the best interest of Rhode Island’s healthcare marketplace, the community, the employees, and most importantly, the patients.”

Kilmartin said in his statement, “Conducting a hospital conversion review requires the commitment of a substantial amount of resources for the Office of Attorney General. I commend my staff for the time and careful consideration put into this review process.” Kilmartin's office has refused to respond to questions from GoLocal regarding the collapse of the fund.

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How Much Will the Receiver be Paid?

Stephen Del Sesto, the receiver for the St. Joseph Health Services Pension Fund, said he will be paid $375.00 per hour -- which is more than the average retiree will receive per month after the 40 percent cut in benefits.

“My fees will not be paid from the plan assets,” said Del Sesto in an email to GoLocal.

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Role of the Diocese of Providence

According to to the document filed with the court seeking bankruptcy protection, the fund or petitioner “has been affiliated with the Catholic Church — “as an affiliate of the Catholic Church, the Plan Qualified as a 'church plan,' which is exempt from the provisions of the Employment Retirement Income Securities Act of 1974 (ERISA) governing defined benefit pension plans.”

And, as a “church plan” the fund and the Diocese were not required to make a minimum contribution to the Plan, or “make pension insurance payments to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp."

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Will the Receiver Seek a New Actuarial and an Independent Audit?

Stephen Del Sesto, the receiver, said he does not know yet if he will seek an independent actuarial and call for a forensic audit.

He is less than a week in his role and told GoLocal that he would need the court's approval to move forward with both steps.

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Big Date

The big date for this case is October 11 -- at that time the receiver Stephen Del Sesto will present the full plan of action.

Payment levels and payment dates will continue at present level, "nothing will change until October 11," said Del Sesto.

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Big Question

The biggest question swirling over the sale of St. Joseph's to CharterCARE and the bankruptcy is how could Attorney General Peter Kilmartin approve the sale with the only condition relating to the pension fund was a one-time $14 million payment in 2014 as part of the approval process -- and then just three years later -- the fund collapses.

The present fund has a balance of approximately $85 million. According to court documents filled as part of the bankruptcy petition, the actuarial claims the fund has a shortfall of $43 million.


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