Steward Health Care financial crisis an "urgent priority," says Massachusetts governor

Steward Health Care financial crisis an "urgent priority," Gov. Healey says

BOSTON - Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey says Steward Health Care's financial crisis is an "urgent priority" for the state.

Healey spoke to the Public Health Council Wednesday morning about Steward's viability as it remains millions of dollars in debt. The company owns nine hospitals in Massachusetts.

Steward's impact on Massachusetts

The governor said they're focused on the health and safety of Steward's patients, the impacts on the communities where the hospitals are located and the impacts any closures would have on other hospitals in Massachusetts.

"I know this is a situation of deep concern to all of us, and especially to you as public health leaders. I want you to know that it is an urgent priority, and has been, for me and for our entire administration," Healey said.

"I am frustrated with where we are right now as a state and what Steward has done."

Earlier this month, Steward Health Care Executive Vice President Dr. Michael Callum said the company had secured the financing it needs to keep its hospitals in Massachusetts open.

Steward's future in Massachusetts unknown

"The bottom line is, at this time, we do not know what the future of Steward hospitals will be," Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein told the council Wednesday.

"It's likely that there will need to be some reorganization, reconfiguration, transition and potential closures for Steward hospitals and the health care they deliver."

Massachusetts hospitals monitored

Goldstein said DPH has been sending monitors "every day for the past several weeks" to four of Steward's hospitals - St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill, and Holy Family Hospital in Methuen.

That monitoring expanded this week, Goldstein said, to include Carney Hospital in Dorchester and Morton Hospital in Taunton.

"By next week, we'll be present in all Steward hospitals," he told the panel.

The monitors are looking at staffing, services, supplies and equipment to "assess that the hospital has what it needs and is required to have to deliver safe and high quality care," Goldstein said.

He told the council the state has been talking with Steward leaders for months, but the company has yet to address its "financial challenges."

Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch said last month that Steward was planning to sell four of its hospitals - Holy Family in Methuen, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Norwood Hospital and St. Elizabeth's Medical Center.

"There are no plans to close additional hospitals," a Steward spokesperson told WBZ-TV in a statement Wednesday afternoon. 

"We are working closely with local, state, and federal officials, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and will continue to do so. We are committed to providing safe, high-quality care in each of our facilities, and will continue to serve our patients and communities."

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