Steward Health Care has announced that it will shutter the New England Sinai rehabilitation hospital in Stoughton by next April, a decision that will put further pressure on regional hospitals already struggling to discharge patients who need continued care.
In a letter sent to state officials Dec. 4, a law firm for Steward Health Care System said it planned to submit a formal notice with the state to close 39 rehabilitation service beds, 119 chronic care service beds, and all ambulatory care services at New England Sinai Hospital. As of Wednesday, there were 45 patients in the hospital.
In a statement, the Dallas-based health system blamed the closure on low reimbursement rates it receives for its predominantly government-insured patients.
“As a result of these chronic low reimbursement rates, Steward has lost $22 million from [New England Sinai Hospital] operations and cannot afford to keep the facility open,” the system said in a statement. A Steward spokesperson said those losses were reflected in calendar years 2021 through 2023.
Even with months before an extended timeline until the closure, Steward said that as of this week the hospital is no longer taking admissions.
The hospital said there were more than 150 skilled nursing facilities located within 25 miles of the hospital. With an average length of stay between 41 to 48 days, the hospital said it should have ample time before its April timeframe to find placements for patients.
“Steward Health Care will work closely with impacted employees to help place them at other Steward hospitals in the state where there are currently 820 vacancies,” the health system said.
However the closure comes at a perilous time for Massachusetts hospitals, which have struggled for months to find places to send the patients they discharge.
As a result, patients have stayed in acute care hospitals, on average, half a day longer than before the pandemic.
Difficulty getting people out of the hospital has also contributed to problems bringing people in. Patients at many health systems are waiting days in the emergency room waiting for a bed.
According to a Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association survey of its membership, as of October 2023, 883 patients were awaiting discharge at member hospitals in the state.
“The planned closure of New England Sinai adds yet another layer of fragility to our state’s health care system,” said Patricia Noga, vice president of clinical affairs at MHA, a lobbying group for Massachusetts hospitals. “We know it is already a massive challenge for patients to find post-acute care services and for hospitals to discharge individuals within the next level of care.”
Noga noted that the discharge obstacles are especially pronounced in the southeast part of the state due to multiple closures in recent years.
Tara Gregorio, president of Massachusetts Senior Care Association, noted that the closures were compounding on one another.
“The announced closure of New England Sinai is consistent with an alarming trend that will only continue to threaten patient care and access to post-acute and long term care in our communities,” said Tara Gregorio, president of Massachusetts Senior Care Association. “These closures are directly attributable to decades of underfunding and soaring workforce costs and availability.”