Massachusetts governor tells Steward to transfer its hospitals ASAP

As Massachusetts lawmakers continue to express their concerns over Dallas-based Steward Health Care's financial troubles, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey has written a new letter to the health system's CEO, Ralph de la Torre, MD, pushing for financial documents to be disclosed.

"You and your team have not been forthcoming, truthful or responsive about what’s happening with your financial status, operating plans, and contingency strategies," Ms. Healey said in the letter. "Navigating this acute crisis, which is of your making, without complete transparency and real-time information, harms our ability to protect patients, our workforce and our state."

The governor's recent letter comes after state lawmakers sent a letter to Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm that founded Steward, demanding answers to their questions related to the health system's troubles no later than Feb. 28. The letter was signed by the entire all-Democratic delegation. 

Ms. Healey's recent letter ordered Steward to share its financial statements by Feb. 23 for the state to review to check if any crimes have occurred, the publication reported.

"We don't have enough to know what they've done, whether it's criminal or illegal, but to me it really smells, it raises a lot of questions," Ms. Healey told The Boston Globe.

Ms. Healey declined to comment on the consequences that Steward would face if it did not comply with her request for answers. She also reiterated to the Globe that the state would not give Steward "a dime to fix the problem they created." 

Along with falling $50 million behind on year-end rent to Medical Properties Trust, the largest hospital landlord in the U.S., there have been concerns over the potential sale of four of Steward's Massachusetts hospitals. 

While the health system recently shared that it now has the ability to put a financial safety net around all of them, Steward is looking to sell one or more of its hospitals to other operators.

"The time has come to move past our many months of discussions and begin executing a safe, orderly transition of your seven licensed facilities in Massachusetts to new operators as soon as possible," Ms. Healey said in the letter.

Amid news that the health system's hospitals are struggling with staffing and supplies, Ms. Healey wrote to Dr. de la Torre, "we will take all actions necessary — in consultation with hospital leadership — to protect patients, including freezing admissions, closing beds, canceling procedures, and transferring patients to other hospitals."

Steward's struggles in Massachusetts also come as three separate Utah lawsuits are seeking a combined $40 million in damages from the health system after investors allege the health system took funding from five of its state hospitals to pay bills it had acquired across other states.

Becker's has reached out to Steward for comment regarding the letter and will update this story as able. 

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