As Steward Health Care secures funding, hospital concerns in Brockton remain

BROCKTON, Mass. — As Steward Health Care announces it has secured funding to keep its Massachusetts hospitals running at least for now, concerns remain in Brockton, where one hospital is temporarily closed and the other is owned by the financially troubled Texas-based healthcare chain.

Good Samaritan Medical Center is among the nine Massachusetts hospitals Steward was looking to sell off as it was $50 million behind in rent, Rep. Stephen Lynch told Boston 25 News last week.

Steward has blamed pandemic challenges and unfair reimbursement rates for its Medicare and Medicaid services, which account for 70 percent of its patients.

But in an internal letter Friday, Steward Executive Vice President Michael Callum told colleagues the healthcare system had agreed on “a significant financial transaction to help stabilize our company.”

“To be clear, we have no current plans to close any of our hospitals in Massachusetts,” Callum wrote, adding that the first phase of funding is “imminent” and that the transaction will give the for-profit hospital chain time for a potential transfer of ownership of one or more of its hospitals.

“I’m very pleased with the news we heard today that they will stay operational, and I’m cautiously optimistic they’ll continue to be so,” said Brockton City Councilor Phil Griffin. “But I’ll be feeling a lot better when Brockton Hospital is back up and running 100 percent, too.”

Signature Healthcare-Brockton Hospital has been closed since a fire tore through the building in Feb. 2023. With supply chain issues delaying reconstruction, the hospital is now slated to reopen this summer.

Emergency rooms throughout the state have been at capacity for years, and Brockton is no exception. Covering the area with only one hospital has been challenging and has only led to longer wait times, officials say. The prospect of losing another hospital – or its operations being disrupted – would be catastrophic, Griffin said.

“I’ve heard of some wait times that have gone 10 to 12 hours, depending on the triage level,” Griffin said. “If [Good Samaritan] closed down, it’s just going to put more burden on the other hospitals in the area.”

Katie Murphy, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, added that losing Norwood Hospital – about 20 miles away from Brockton – due to an unprecedented 2020 flood, is an added challenge to an already overwhelmed healthcare system.

“Even our ambulances are experiencing shortages,” Murphy said. “When they’re moving patients out of the area, that’s an ambulance that might be going, what, 30 miles away. So, they’re not in the community. I think people are thinking about that as well.”

Murphy, too, is relieved by Steward’s latest financial announcement but remains concerned about the future of all its hospitals. She says, if there is an ownership change in the future, the transition must be seamless, especially for the patients who rely on critical health care in their community.

“We really need to look to the future to make sure these community hospitals are strong and safe in Boston, up on the northern part of the state and in Brockton,” Murphy said, “because this is really some of our most vulnerable populations.”

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

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