Steward looks to transfer all 9 Massachusetts hospitals amid lawmaker backlash

Dallas-based Steward Health Care is looking to transfer ownership of its nine Massachusetts hospitals as lawmakers shared another letter with Steward's CEO Ralph de la Torre, MD, "blasting him" over the health system's ongoing financial struggles.

"Steward Health Care is working with state officials and others to transition ownership of the Massachusetts hospitals in a way that everyone agrees is best for patients, our employees, and the Commonwealth," a spokesperson for Steward said in a statement previously shared with Becker's. "We are committed to the continuity of care in our communities, and we appreciate the strong level of interest we have received from numerous qualified health systems that could facilitate a smooth transition."

Steward's statement came in response to New Bedford, Mass.-based Southcoast Health's expressed interest in buying Fall River, Mass.-based Saint Anne's Hospital, one of Steward's hospitals. 

While Steward attempts to offload its state hospitals, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and  Ed Markey's letter to Dr. de la Torre laid out fears over the hospital's stability.

"Steward's Massachusetts hospitals are in deep financial distress and appear to be in danger of closure because of years of mismanagement, private equity schemes, and executive profiteering. You have run this hospital system for 14 years, and reportedly have had access to two private jets while owning two luxury yachts," the letter said. "Meanwhile, suppliers were unpaid, the system piled on debt, and patients in Steward hospitals … suffered because of inadequate care."

The letter pointed to mismanagement and suggested that Steward being in "hundreds of millions of dollars in debt" raises questions over patient care, unpaid vendors, healthcare worker job loss, and if the hospitals will remain open. 

"You owe Congress, state officials, and the public answers for the record of failure and greed that has culminated in the current Steward Health Care crisis," the letter said.

This is the second letter that Ms. Warren has shared with Dr. de la Torre regarding the health system's finances. On Feb. 15, Ms. Warren, Mr. Markey and nine other Massachusetts lawmakers also sent a letter to Cerberus, the private equity firm that founded Steward, looking for answers to its troubles.

“We have just received the letter and are reviewing their requests," a spokesperson for Steward said in a statement shared with Becker's March 11.  

Steward has provided "voluminous data" to Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell and the state's executive office of health and human services over the last few weeks, the Steward spokesperson said. 

"More recently, we provided detailed hospital level financial information that was requested, and we continue to work cooperatively with state officials. We are committed to our patients, our employees, and communities; we have no plans to close hospitals and are working with state officials on transition plans that we believe will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. We will review the requests in the letter closely and will respond."

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