Steward's financial woes spur Massachusetts to activate incident command system

Officials with the Massachusetts health department have launched an incident command system meant to safeguard access to care and minimize any potential service disruptions amid Dallas-based Steward Health Care's ongoing financial troubles

The incident command system will support better coordination between state agencies, hospitals, community health centers, labor groups and other stakeholders, officials said in announcing the news May 3, according to reports from local news outlets. 

The command system will be led by Gregg Meyer, MD, senior vice president for quality and safety at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. It is designed to "safeguard care and services at Steward Hospitals," and respond to any "transitions in care" at Steward facilities that would affect healthcare access across the region, according to WBUR and NBC affiliate WBTS

State officials emphasized that Steward's hospitals remain open. 

"As part of emergency operations activation, the [department of public health] has formalized an incident command system to coordinate the regional planning work already underway," Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD, commissioner of the state's department of public health, said in a statement to news outlets. The system, "incorporates the ongoing external monitoring in all Steward hospitals, enables DPH to rapidly respond to any clinical needs or issues that arise, and fosters increased communication with other regional healthcare organizations, first responders and community leaders," he added. 

In February, the health department deployed monitors to Steward hospitals across the state to ensure adequate resources are available to deliver safe care, and that staff are supported. 

In March, Steward announced it was looking to transfer ownership of all nine of its Massachusetts hospitals. It has maintained that it has no plans to close hospitals. Read more about the health system's financial troubles here

Last month, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey's administration began holding meetings with hospitals and community health centers to discuss uncertainty surrounding Steward's financial struggles, and how the state's healthcare system can best meet the needs of patients and providers should a Steward facility face closure or a contraction of services.

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