Business

Steward lagging on new facilities

Little progress seen on Quincy promises; Hospital’s closing quickly moving ahead

Quincy Medical Center.

David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Quincy Medical Center.

The future for patients who use services at Quincy Medical Center remains uncertain as the parent company, Steward Health Care System, moves to quickly close the struggling hospital but so far has taken few steps to open new medical facilities, as promised nearly three weeks ago.

Steward said Nov. 6 that it would close Quincy Medical Center because of declining finances and a shortage of patients, and transition services to a new emergency department and outpatient clinics. But so far, Steward has not begun the regulatory process to open such sites in Quincy.

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Steward’s plans for Quincy will be discussed at a Dec. 2 public hearing held by the state Department of Public Health.

“DPH will continue to work closely with the Steward Health Care System to ensure appropriate continuity of care for patients in the area,” department spokeswoman Anne Roach said.

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Steward’s spokeswoman, Brooke Thurston, said the company is planning to open a 24-hour urgent care clinic in South Quincy, which may be at either 700 Congress St. or 54 Miller St., two medical office buildings where Steward has space available.

Additionally, Steward plans to open two or three clinics in Quincy that offer specialty services such as cardiology, endocrinology, podiatry, and geriatrics.

“They will be open by Jan. 1,” Thurston said.

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On the day Steward executives said they would close the Quincy hospital they also promised to open a new, freestanding 24-hour emergency department. But Steward has not said where it will be located. Once Steward picks a site and applies for approval, the process could take several weeks.

Berkshire Health Systems waited more than a month for state health officials to complete an expedited review of its plans to open a satellite emergency room in North Adams, following the sudden shutdown of North Adams Regional Hospital earlier this year.

As Steward prepares to shutter Quincy Medical Center, the actual closing date remains unclear. Steward initially said the hospital would shut down Dec. 31. The company’s lawyers later sent state officials a letter, dated Nov. 17, agreeing to keep the hospital open until Feb. 4 to comply with a law that requires 90 days’ notice for a hospital closing.

But the next day, Donna Rubinate, Quincy Medical Center president, told employees reports of a revised timeline were “misleading and inaccurate.”

“We are continuing to transition patient care to new locations and work to support our employees as we transition operations toward closure on Dec. 31,” Rubinate said in a memo to staff.

Asked about the discrepancy, Thurston said only that operations will wind down “in consultation with the Department of Public Health.”

Steward is a private-equity-backed company that entered Massachusetts in 2010 when it bought a string of hospitals formerly run by the Archdiocese of Boston and turned them into for-profit entities.

The decision to close Quincy Medical Center appears to violate a contract with Attorney General Martha Coakley, signed when Steward bought the hospital out of bankruptcy in 2011. In that agreement, Steward said it would keep the hospital open until at least 2017. Coakley’s deputies plan to meet with Steward executives before taking any legal action against the company.

Quincy Medical Center was filling just about 20 percent of its 196 beds and was on track to lose $20 million this year, even after Steward said it spent tens of millions of dollars to improve the facility and its services.

Since the company said it will close Quincy Medical Center, the inpatient census has dropped another 60 percent, and emergency room visits have fallen 40 percent.

Quincy has several other medical clinics that may pick up some of the patients displaced by the hospital’s closing. They include facilities operated by Manet Community Health Center, which has four primary-care clinics in the city.

That will shrink to three as Quincy Medical Center, where one of Manet’s clinics operates, shuts down. Manet will shift that practice to its North Quincy location, which was recently renovated and expanded, said John J. Holiver, Manet’s chief executive.

Steward and Manet said they are also in talks to collaborate on new patient services.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey
can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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