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What can Westerly learn from Landmark?

December 6, 2011

When I heard Westerly Hospital was filing for receivership I had an odd reaction- nostalgia. Financially troubled hospitals will come and go, but I can’t avoid thinking of Landmark Medical Center.

Landmark filed for receivership on June 26th of 2008, just five months after I joined Rhode Island Public Radio as its health care reporter. Landmark has been managed by a special master, and I’ve been reporting on it, ever since.

Remember that time I had to go to a Landmark hearing on my birthday? And the way the search for a buyer dragged on and on

I won’t gush anymore about the financially troubled hospital in Woonsocket except to ask, what can Westerly learn from Landmark?

If you remember, early on in the process, the Caritas Christi hospital chain in Massachusetts expressed an interest in buying Landmark. The two sides dithered for a while and then finally announced they’d hit an impasse.

Landmark then underwent a fast tracked attempt to recruit as many bidders as possible, only to end up with potential owners from far-away places like California or Tennessee. In the end, Caritas (now called Steward) entered back into the process and signed a purchase agreement at the last minute.

Westerly also admits it needs a buyer or some type of merger if it wants to survive in this health care climate. It was negotiating exclusively with Lawrence and Memorial Hospital until it decided to seek receivership. Westerly says once it’s under court supervision it has to be open to other bidders. Will L&M swoop in after a long and protracted process? Who can say?

Westerly’s spokesman Nick Stahl says he hopes this receivership doesn’t last as long.

Where that one has been a number of years, we would like to think our situation would be more in the range of a year to 18 months.

But no promises. Ed Quinlan with the Hospital Association of Rhode Island says there’s no way to tell how long this, or any future hospital receivership, might last.

Anyone trying to predict how long the process will last will be disappointed. They all take time.

So what can Westerly learn from Landmark? Don’t count on a deadline.

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