'Frustrated with where we are': Massachusetts governor talks Steward troubles, plan of action

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and her administration further addressed Steward Health Care's financial troubles along with the state's ongoing plan of action during a state public health council meeting Feb. 14.

"I am frustrated with where we are right now as a state and what Steward has done," Ms. Healey said. "That said, our job is to work together to make sure that patients are protected, that our healthcare providers are protected, and able to continue to do the important work that they do throughout the state, and that the stability of our healthcare system is protected."

Echoing Ms. Healey's concerns, Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said that while there remains speculation about the status of Steward's facilities, there is no way to tell what the future holds.

"It's likely that there will need to be some reorganization, reconfiguration, transition, and potential closures for Steward hospitals and the healthcare they deliver," Dr. Goldstein said during the meeting. "We've listened to the issues they're [Steward] facing, and we've offered support, advice, and our perspective. But, Steward itself must address its significant financial challenges. It must develop a reasonable plan and relay that plan and a timeline to us, and then work with us to move the process forward."

To ensure jobs are protected and workers are safe, Dr. Goldstein said the state's DPH has deployed monitors to four of Steward's hospitals: Brighton-based St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, Brockton-based Good Samaritan Medical Center, and to both of Holy Family Hospital's sites in Haverhill and Methuen.

DPH is also expanding its monitoring sites to Steward's Dorchester-based Carney Hospital and its Taunton-based Morton Hospital in the coming days.

"By next week, we'll be present in all Steward hospitals," Dr. Goldstein said. "Our 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 in each of the facilities. These monitors are also talking with staff on the ground."

Concerns have risen over the potential sale of four of Steward's nine Massachusetts hospitals in recent weeks. However, the health system recently shared that it now has the ability to put a financial safety net around all of them and has no current plans to close its hospitals. 

In working with federal regulatory agencies to address any quality and safety issues that arise, DPH has also connected with health leaders across Massachusetts to discuss the impact that Steward's financial troubles will have statewide.

During the council meeting, Eduardo Haddad, MD, president of the Lawrence (Mass.) General Hospital medical staff and the physicians' representative on the board of trustees, said the hospital is ready and willing to step in to support Steward patients in its area.

"There is no lack of will in our part to take care of all of these patients, and if given the power of aiding the Holy Family Hospital's in our region in some form, we would definitely sign up for it with the help of the state or whoever else shares our goals, which I know is what this council is all about," Dr. Haddad said.

In looking ahead, Dr. Goldstein said the state remains committed to being open, transparent and engaged with patients and stakeholders alike.

"This will take a multifaceted, long-term approach that involves collaboration with all segments of the healthcare infrastructure, all of government, and all of our community partners to move us through this increasingly challenging time. This work is hard, but it's important. We must do it right and we must do it well," Dr. Goldstein said.

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