24/05/2024

Care Health

Prioritize Healthy life

Steward Health Care is millions in debt and their Massachusetts hospitals and patients are worried

Steward Health Care is millions in debt and their Massachusetts hospitals and patients are worried

BOSTON – At least six active lawsuits claim Steward Health Care has not paid vendors for supplies and services in months, totaling over $7.5 million.

Plus, the group’s landlord, Medical Properties Trust, claims it’s owed $50 million. In a news release, it said, “Steward is pursuing several strategic transactions, including the potential sale or re-tenanting of certain hospital operations as well as the divestiture of non-core operations.”

When WBZ-TV reached out to Steward about hospitals closing, it denied any such closure plans.

Steward Health Care runs nine hospitals, rehabs, and health care facilities across Massachusetts, including Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton, Good Samaritan in Brockton, and Carney Hospital in Dorchester.

Former employees remember running out of equipment as funds suffered. “The vendors would threaten to stop sending supplies,” said Tasha Blondiet, who worked as a tech in radiology and x-ray until January 2023. “So, then we found out that Steward would pay like half the bill just to get some supplies,” she said.

She explained a time when she knew something wasn’t right. “So, we have to have emergency chest tubes on hand just in case they happen to puncture the lung,” she said. “It doesn’t happen often, but it is unfortunately a risk of, you know, doing a biopsy through your lung and even the OR was running out of them. They came up and took one of ours out of our stock because they didn’t have any downstairs.”

A letter from the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation – including Senators Markey and Warren – suggested the state is in conversations for some kind of takeover of the Steward system. In a statement to WBZ, an EEOHS spokesperson wrote, “a top priority of the Healey-Driscoll Administration, EOHHS, and DPH is to protect public health and safety. This means maintaining safe and high-quality care in hospitals throughout the state, and supporting the healthcare workforce. When healthcare facilities or services close, we are always concerned about any potential disruption to patients, healthcare workers, families, and communities. DPH will continue to closely monitor and work with Steward to protect patients, preserve jobs, and maintain quality.”


Lawsuits suggest Steward Health Care has not paid vendors in months

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Lawmakers in particular are concerned about where patients would go for quality care if Steward Hospitals couldn’t stay open. “The abrupt closure of Steward’s Massachusetts hospitals would significantly limit access to inpatient critical care and inpatient behavioral health care, as well as maternal and newborn health services in eastern Massachusetts,” the letter from Massachusetts’s Congresspeople reads. “Steward hospitals are part of Massachusetts’s network of safety net hospitals, with a high mix of Medicaid and Medicare patients. In other words, the burden of Steward hospital closures would be borne primarily by the Massachusetts residents who already experience the greatest challenges accessing health care.”

That in particular is the challenge: where would patients go? Earlier this week, Mass. General Hospital announced what it called an “unprecedented capacity crisis.”

“I think that any hospital that closes today will add to the already existing crisis of access that we have,” said Barbara Spivak, the President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “You could start anywhere in the system and understand that there are access issues. So, hospitals are having problems with bed capacity, and part of that is that they have trouble getting patients discharged appropriately. We don’t have enough SNF beds or nursing home beds. And that is because they don’t have enough staff to take care of the patients. So, there’s a nursing home blockage. We don’t have enough acute rehab beds. Emergency rooms are full, and that’s because they can’t get patients admitted into the hospital because of the discharge problem.”

Steward Health Care did not respond to WBZ’s request for comment on Thursday.