Steward patients seeking care elsewhere as hospital chain plans sale

Carney Hospital has more than 150 beds. For five days last month, Anita Waiters occupied one of them --- and she didn’t have much company.

“I think there were four people on the floor,” she said. “The entire floor.”

Carney is one of eight Massachusetts hospitals owned by Steward Healthcare. The Dallas-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month but has secured more than $200 million to keep its hospitals open.

Steward plans to sell all of its Massachusetts hospitals over the summer. The company is also bailing on hospitals it owns in other states.

And now, it seems, patients may be bailing on Steward hospitals.  In a meeting this week, the state’s Public Health Council addressed the exodus.

“It is very clear from the data,” one member said, “That there are decreasing volumes at the Steward facilities.”

Anita Waiters knows all about that.

“There are no patients,” she said. “If you walked in there now and walked around the first floor you might run into three people.”

Actually, five to ten people waited in Carney’s lobby. But Waiters was right about the rest of the first floor. The corridors were empty, a sole patient waited to see a cardiologist, the only human noise in the radiology department coming from a wall-mounted TV.

“The only people that come here are from nursing homes,” Waiters said. “They bring them in by ambulance.”

Thursday morning, just one patient sat in the Emergency Department.

Over at St. Elizabeth’s, another Steward Hospital, emergency visit wait times dropped as low as 5 minutes.

St E’s patient Katiana Rodriguez didn’t know about Steward’s bankruptcy -- nor its plan to sell its hospitals.

“I’m moving in a month, so probably the best timing I could have,” she said. “But it’s unfortunate for a lot of other people that depend on St. Elizabeth’s for their hospital services.”

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