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Steward Health Care owes landlord, vendors millions as hospital closure rumors swirl

Steward Health Care is currently entangled in at least six lawsuits, collectively claiming the healthcare provider has failed to compensate vendors to the tune of over $7.5 million. Adding to the financial strain, Steward’s landlord, Medical Properties Trust, asserts a substantial outstanding sum of $50 million. Steward responded by stating its pursuit of strategic transactions, potentially involving the sale or re-tenanting of specific hospital operations and the divestiture of non-core operations.

Despite these financial challenges, Steward rebuffed assertions of impending hospital closures when questioned by WBZ. The healthcare entity oversees nine hospitals, rehab centers, and healthcare facilities across Massachusetts, including notable institutions like Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton, Good Samaritan in Brockton, and Carney Hospital in Dorchester.

Former employees recounted instances of equipment shortages and delayed payments, with vendors issuing threats to halt essential supplies. Tasha Blondiet, a former radiology and x-ray tech, shared experiences where Steward opted to pay only half the bill to secure vital supplies. The situation raised concerns, particularly regarding the scarcity of emergency equipment like chest tubes, impacting patient care.

A letter from the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, featuring Senators Markey and Warren, hinted at ongoing discussions regarding a potential state takeover of the Steward system. The emphasis is on safeguarding public health and safety, ensuring uninterrupted patient care, preserving jobs, and upholding healthcare quality.

Lawmakers expressed apprehension about the potential repercussions on patient access to critical care, behavioral health services, and maternal and newborn health services in eastern Massachusetts if Steward Hospitals were to abruptly close. Steward hospitals play a crucial role in the state’s safety net healthcare network, catering primarily to Medicaid and Medicare patients.

The central challenge lies in determining alternative destinations for affected patients to receive quality care. Against the backdrop of concerns about an “unprecedented capacity crisis” at Mass. General Hospital, Barbara Spivak, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, highlighted existing systemic issues. Hospitals grapple with bed capacity challenges, discharge complications, and a shortage of staff for nursing home and rehab beds.

As of now, Steward Health Care has not responded to WBZ’s request for commentary on these unfolding developments.

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