Steward Health Care System is throwing in the towel on its three-year effort to revitalize Quincy (Mass.) Medical Center. It's closing the facility at the end of the year, marking the largest hospital closing to date in Massachusetts. The closure comes despite a 10-year agreement Steward had with the state's attorney general's office to operate the facility until at least 2018.
When it purchased QMC with state and local support in 2011, Steward signed an agreement with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley promising to keep the acute-care hospital open for 10 years after the purchase, or 6½ years under negative financial margins. It's unclear whether Steward will face penalties for closing the suburban Boston hospital early—a spokesman for the attorney general's office said in a statement that the attorney general had been notified of the decision and is “currently reviewing it in the context of Steward's legal obligations.”
Brooke Thurston, a spokeswoman for Steward, wrote in an e-mail that the system has been in an “ongoing discussion” with government officials regarding the closure, noting that the financial problems at QMC were “very well known and understood by government officials and others.”
To replace QMC, Steward will open an outpatient urgent-care center and a 24-hour emergency department at two distinct locations. The system will also open a multispecialty clinic in Quincy and provide radiological services and transportation.
For-profit Steward spent $100 million when it acquired QMC out of bankruptcy with state and local support in 2011, and has been losing roughly $20 million a year on the facility since. Hospital officials say an increase in competition from academic medical centers, significant cuts in Medicare and Medicaid fees and a lackluster inpatient-care business have done a number on the hospital's bottom line. On an average day, only one-fifth of the hospital's 196 beds are occupied, Steward Hospitals President Dr. Mark Girard said in a statement.
More than 12 hospitals are within 10 miles of the soon-to-be-shuttered Quincy facility.
Steward had previously agreed to provide the Massachusetts Department of Public Health with written notice that it intends to close QMC six months before shutting it down. The department said it had received the notice this past Thursday—just two months before the scheduled shutdown date, according to published reports.
Steward had convened a Quincy Medical Center task force in October that included government officials, labor leaders, industry experts and community representatives that were meeting weekly to discuss the future of the facility.
“After meeting with the task force, it was clear that keeping a hospital open under these circumstances makes no sense,” Thurston wrote. “That is why we are transitioning to a system of healthcare options that better meets the long-term needs of the Quincy community.”
In a news release regarding the closure, Steward notes that QMC is in an area that is saturated with medical facilities—within 10 miles of the Quincy campus there are 15 acute-care hospitals, 12 surgery centers, 21 urgent-care centers, more than 150 nursing home providers, more than 500 physician offices and 130 outpatient behavioral health sites, according to the release. Most of the patients who use Quincy use it for non-urgent healthcare needs, while trauma, burn and cardiac patients are already diverted to other hospitals, according to the release.
The hospital will continue to pay its employees for the next 60 days, and is working with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the 1199 Service Employees International Union and its non-unionized workers to help employees find new jobs.
Steward, formed by Cerberus Capital Management in 2010, initially bought six hospitals in Massachusetts from the Caritas Christi Healthcare network. It went on to buy three other hospitals in eastern Massachusetts, including Quincy in 2011.
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