'Running on a shoestring': Steward's financial struggles' impact on employees, patients

From surgeons being forced to purchase their own medical instruments to patient meals being reduced to crackers after sandwiches ran out, Dallas-based Steward Health Care's financial struggles are significantly impacting patients and employees, The Boston Globe reported Jan. 31.

As concerns from politicians and community members grow over the uncertain status of Steward's nine Massachusetts hospitals, which serve around 200,000 patients and employee 16,000 people, patients have reported unforeseen lack of certain service and supply access, last minute procedure rescheduling, and even service being cut from TVs in patient rooms, the publication reported.

While most Steward employees have decided to remain, some have left their positions.

Patrick Murray, who retired as a lead mechanic in 2021 from Boston-based St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, part of Steward, told The Boston Globe his retirement came after years of continuously asking the health system for money to pay for mechanical repairs, snow removal, and additional maintenance work. 

Along with nurses being told to count patient straws and record how many had been used, Mr. Murray said due to excessive rust, the bed was falling off of the truck he drove around campus. 

"We had things just running on a shoestring. We're talking about a medical center with people's lives on the line," Mr. Murray told the Globe

"Steward Health Care serves a patient population that are among the Commonwealth's most vulnerable, and we are committed to continuing to care for them," a spokesperson for Steward said in a statement recently shared with Becker's. "We are committed to working productively with public officials to ensure that we can provide uninterrupted and high-quality care for the communities we serve."

An unnamed Steward patient also told the publication that she was shocked at how understaffed St. Elizabeth's was after giving birth via C-section at the center in October. Along with no lactation consultants, the nursery was also closed.

Additional complaints include patients and caregivers being unable to reach trusted physicians since Steward took over, dirty bathrooms, out-of-service elevators, and call buttons not working on care beds. 

At Steward's Taunton, Mass.-based Morton Hospital, patients over 250 pounds, who typically receive extra-wide bariatric beds to prevent pressure injuries, have reportedly been forced to use regular beds due to the hospital's inability to pay two successive vendors, an intensive care nurse told the publication. 

"From the beginning, Steward was all about money," a surgeon, who left Steward, told The Boston Globe. "It started getting more and more risky to do surgery there. My biggest concern is something bad will happen."

Many Steward patients have been canceling scheduled procedures in light of recent news surrounding the health system's financial woes.

"The past two months, it’s been really tense. We're all in the same boat and the boat is leaking big time," a Steward operating room employee told the publication. 

Amid the ongoing struggles, many employees are holding out hope that a change will come. 

"I'm there till the end," Ronald, an emergency room mental health counselor, told the publication. "I'm trusting that we will be taken over by another hospital that has a vision."

Becker's has reached out to Steward for an updated statement regarding some of the employee and patient reports and will update this story as more information becomes available. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars