1,200 pound man moved from nursing home with crane

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Bannister House nursing home patient who weighs close to 1,200 pounds was moved from the financially troubled facility with a crane Sunday afternoon.

As Target 12 first reported Friday, the move took a lot of preparation. A Smithfield crane company conducted a site survey at the Dodge Street nursing home in order to determine where their crane should be located to help safely move Robert Butler.

Providence firefighters from the Special Hazards Unit then cut an opening to Butler’s nursing home room door to widen it. Firefighters also built a ramp that helped them move Butler to a deck in the four-story building. From there, he was placed in a medically equipped, metal container that was lifted with a crane from the deck, down to a flatbed truck.

Butler first contacted Target 12 after his bed at the facility broke. At the time, he claimed he was not getting the care he needed. Previous phone calls to Bannister House were not returned.

The nursing home went into receivership earlier this month, with the non-profit’s debt pegged at more than $2 million. The petition filed in Superior Court stated the nursing home’s board voted to close the facility due to the red ink. But the appointed receiver said that plan was put on hold to determine if closing the nursing home and moving its 80 residents is possible.

Butler, who landed on permanent disability several years ago due to his weight problem, did not know whether or not his move is connected to the facility’s financial troubles.

Butler said he is apprehensive about the entire process.

Michael Raia, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said Butler was transported to Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston which he said is well-equipped to help him. When Target 12 spoke to Raia last week, he said he could not comment “at this time” about the cost of the operation.

Butler Sought Help In The Past

In August of 2006, Butler was the subject of an Eyewitness News Street Story as he was trying to find a doctor to conduct a stomach stapling operation to help him lose weight. He weighed about 900 pounds at the time and lived in a Central Falls apartment.

“I can’t do this alone,” he said. “It’s impossible. It’s an addiction.”

Butler said he needed to lose weight to have the operation, but had no way to pay for it because he said Medicaid did not cover the procedure. He never got the operation, continued to gain weight and eventually moved to Bannister House, where he’s gained nearly 300 pounds in the past 10 years. When we talked with him a decade ago, he said he wondered why Medicaid would not pay for a stomach stapling operation that he believed would help him get off permanent disability.

“It’s odd because the government will give me money to survive every month. But they won’t help me to get off disability,” Butler said at the time. “I want to work. I want to start a career again. I’m willing to chance dying on that operating table instead of dying in this bed.”

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