CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) _ Cranston General Hospital Osteopathic will become the first hospital in New England to allow chiropractors to practice, hospital officials say.

The decision was endorsed by the hospital's medical staff 15-7 but criticized Thursday by some in the medical field.

The chiropractors would not be allowed to prescribe drugs or directly admit patients into the hospital. In addition, chiropractic treatments would have to be approved by a member of the regular hospital staff.

''We think we're doing something innovative,'' said Dr. Earle Travis, chief of staff. ''It's a more unified approach to medical care.''

But Dr. Stephen Barrett, a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud and a critic of chiropractic medicine, said, ''Any hospital that is willing to make an uncritical acceptance of chiropractors probably has something seriously wrong with its management.''

Chiropractors believe misalignment of the spine is the underlying cause of disease.

The decision comes as the hospital suffered a sharp drop in business, and officials hope bringing in chiropractors will help fill beds.