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Landmark + Steward = one close call

May 27, 2011

You’ve probably heard the basic details already-after giving up on Landmark last year, the former Caritas Christi hospital chain (now Steward Health Care System) swooped in at the last minute and decided to buy the hospital after all.

Months of agonizing delays as Judge Michael Silverstein weighed offers from four bidders  led the hospital right back where it started- to a deal with the Massachusetts hospital network.

As our anchor Robert Ames says, they decided to “dance with the girl that brought them.” or put more succinctly, “they’re baaaack!”

How did this happen?  Landmark’s Special Master Jonathan Savage gave a detailed narrative of the process in court today.  I’m hoping to eventually  get a copy of the actual transcript, but for now here’s a brief synopsis-

When two of Landmark’s remaining three bidders dropped out of the process last week, life was looking pretty grim.  The remaining bidder- RegionalCare– had an antagonizing relationship with the hospital’s union.  There was little chance of getting the two groups together to figure out a deal.

Confidence in the hospital was quickly dropping.  Fifteen employees in key departments  like the emergency room and the operating room left for other jobs.  Landmark had to reorganize its operating schedule to accommodate for the new vacancies.

President of Landmark, Rich Charest, says anxiety at the hospital is “palpable.”  I can’t find it in my notes, but I’m pretty sure Jonathan Savage used the phrase  “death spiral.”

Savage pushed on the union and Regionalcare to make a deal.  The United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP)  finally agreed to a meeting this week, but RegionalCare decided not to show up.

Meanwhile, UNAP had been quietly negotiating with Steward/Caritas as the other bids fell apart. When RegionalCare skipped out on the meeting, UNAP and Steward met up to make a deal, Landmark’s Special Master asked the hospital chain for an asset purchase agreement, and Steward sent him everything he needed by 4pm yesterday.

Savage urged the judge to approve the sale today.  He even brought copies of the agreement so everyone in the court room could quickly review the deal.  Instead, Silverstein gave everyone the long weekend to look over the documents.  He’ll make a final decision in court on Tuesday at 2pm.  I’d be shocked if he doesn’t approve the sale.

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