PAULINO: Protecting Methuen’s Healthcare Access


Dear friends and neighbors,

As your state representative, I’m deeply concerned about the recent developments at Steward Health Care and how they have impacted Holy Family Hospital, a vital institution that has served our community for generations. We must ensure that it continues to be an essential part of our community, providing the care we rely on.

Steward Health Care’s Lack of Transparency

In 2016, Steward Health Care sold its hospital real estate to Medical Properties Trust (MPT) and leased it back, putting the financial stability of Holy Family Hospital and other Steward hospitals at risk. This decision resulted in millions of dollars in unpaid rent, leaving these hospitals with a heavy financial burden. Unpaid vendors and contractors are owed millions, which only adds to the strain.

This lack of transparency, without proper input from local officials or healthcare providers, raises significant concerns about Steward’s commitment to providing stable, quality care.

Steward’s mishandling of nurse union contracts also led to staffing shortages and compromised patient care. Their inability to negotiate fair contracts and prioritize staffing has left hospitals overworked and understaffed, threatening our health services.

Supporting the Redraft of House Bill 1219

To address these challenges and protect Holy Family Hospital, I strongly support the redraft of House Bill 1219, “An Act enhancing the market review process,” which strengthens oversight of healthcare operations. Let me outline how this critical legislation tackles these systemic issues:

1. Market Review Process: The bill establishes a comprehensive review process to monitor significant changes in healthcare operations, ensuring that major shifts don’t threaten patient care. This process prevents sudden closures and maintains market stability.

2. Transparency and Accountability: Hospitals will be required to own the land on which their facilities stand to receive state licensure, preventing them from relying on financially burdensome lease arrangements like those that have left Steward hospitals in this current situation.

3. Learning from Steward Health Care’s Failures: The legislation also seeks to address broader challenges that have persisted in the healthcare sector since the COVID-19 pandemic. With improved transparency and rigorous financial management, the bill aims to contain healthcare costs and prevent future crises.

4. Containing Costs: The redraft of House Bill 1219 represents the most significant effort to control healthcare costs since the 2012 law that established the Health Policy Commission. This approach minimizes financial strain on patients and providers, ensuring long-term stability.

Emergency Operations Plan for Community Protection

To ensure uninterrupted patient care during potential transitions, Governor Maura Healey’s administration has launched an emergency operations plan. It includes creating an incident command center to improve communication between the state, healthcare providers, and investors. The goal is to ensure that residents of Methuen will not wake up to a closed hospital.

Unfortunately, Steward Health Care, which operates Holy Family Hospital, hasn’t fully collaborated with the state’s efforts to safeguard the hospital’s continued services. Despite this, we remain prepared to respond quickly to any evolving situation within Steward Health Care and will continue working to prevent disruptions to patient care.

Preparing for Any Scenario

Our healthcare system must be safeguarded to ensure everyone in our community has access to quality medical care. While we’re striving to prevent disruptions at Holy Family Hospital, we’re ready to handle any situation that may arise. Our contingency plans will help guarantee continuous care.

Call to Action

The redraft of House Bill 1219 and the emergency operations plan are crucial steps to guarantee that Holy Family Hospital remains operational and an essential institution for generations to come.
Together, we can create a healthcare system that serves Methuen, Lawrence and perhaps Merrimack Valley effectively, ensuring that our families receive the healthcare care they deserve.

Please join me in supporting the redraft of House Bill 1219 to put patients first. Your safety and access to quality healthcare remain and always will be one of my highest priorities.

I will continue working diligently to safeguard our beloved hospital and protect these essential services.◊