Plan to shutter Stoughton’s New England Sinai Hospital moves forward

STOUGHTON, Mass. — Cynthia Walsh said she had a heart attack in April and is worried about what will happen when New England Sinai Hospital closes its doors in April.

“You have to go to where you can get the care. A ‘MinuteClinic’ isn’t going to handle a heart attack,” Walsh said.

According to NESH’s owner, Steward Health Care, the Stoughton hospital’s financial performance decreased by 1,600 percent over the last five years. The healthcare company blamed “skyrocketing expenses” related to labor, material costs due to inflation, and lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its decision to close the hospital.

NESH’s last day of operation is April 2, Steward said.

“This was a very difficult decision, but numerous factors have made it impossible to continue operations,” a Steward attorney told the Dept. of Public Health in December. “Chronic under-reimbursement rates through public programs like Medicaid have put an unstainable strain on resources at NESH.”

During a public hearing with the Mass. Dept. of Public Health Wednesday, NESH’s President Justine DeFronzo said several factors “decimated” NESH’s financial performance.

“This is a difficult but necessary decision for us,” DeFronzo said.

The hospital’s closure means the loss of 39 rehabilitation service bed, 119 chronic care beds, and all ambulance service at the hospital. DeFronzo said treatment for NESH patients will not be interrupted and all remaining patients will either be discharged home or sent to a lower-level care facility before the hospital closes in April.

Steward Health Care is in the midst of a financial crisis. The hospital chain is $50 million behind on rent, according to Rep. Stephen Lynch, and looking to sell all nine remaining Massachusetts hospitals, but most urgently Holy Family, Nashoba Valley, St. Elizabeth’s and Norwood Hospital.

Steward Health Care, which runs Holy Family’s Methuen and Haverhill campuses, also operates Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Morton Hospital in Brockton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton and Norwood Hospital, which flooded in 2020.

The Massachusetts Congressional delegation has been trying to figure out a plan to keep the community hospitals open. Closing even one could overwhelm other hospitals already over capacity during a COVID and flu surge, Lynch said.

Surgeries and procedures performed by Mass General Brigham doctors at Holy Family Hospital were postponed last week, days after the hospital president stepped down amid Steward Health Care’s financial crisis.

“We directed over $100 million into these hospitals – just the ones in my district. One hundred million into Steward Health Care hospitals to keep them open because of COVID and other challenges that they had,” Lynch said. “So, to not receive advance notice that they’re $50 million behind on their rent or they’re thinking about closing is a real violation of trust.”

Walsh believes losing NESH could have dire consequences for elderly patients in the region.

“If I had to go into Boston to learn more about diabetes, I’d probably already have had an amputation because I don’t have any transportation into Boston,” Walsh said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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