How will the public respond to Landmark sale?
Woonsocket City Hall is hosting two public forums- one from 2pm to 4pm and another from 6pm to 8pm. I’ll be there for the earlier hearing so I can file stories in time for the late afternoon newscasts.
The public hearings are one step in the state’s lengthy hospital conversions act process. Only one hospital merger (the combination of St. Joseph’s Health Services with Roger Williams Medical Center to create Charter Care) has ever reached this stage.
When I attended the Charter Care public hearing, the people who testified were mostly state and hospital officials. The only member of the public who spoke was a woman with complaints about a family member’s medical care at Roger Williams. I’m not sure if she even mentioned the actual merger.
But the sale of Landmark to Steward involves higher stakes than the combining of two community hospitals. Steward would turn Landmark into the state’s first for profit medical center and based on legislation in the General Assembly, it hopes to do the same to other hospitals in the state.
Steward is also expecting new freedoms– the ability to lay-off an unlimited number of employees and eliminate services at the hospital. It’s also expecting tax breaks and certain agreements with Woonsocket’s local community health center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Some folks joke that if we don’t act quickly Steward will ask for every Rhode Islander’s first born child.
But those snickers aside, Landmark is a major employer for the city of Woonsocket. The hospital’s union, the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, isn’t fighting these new demands from Steward. There’s too much at stake. If Steward walks away, the entire hospital could close.
That’s why I’m curious about this public hearing. Will residents say we need Landmark no matter what the cost? Or will they question the many things that Steward demands?
I’ll be reporting on the testimony later today, but in the meantime, what do you think? Should Rhode Island move forward with this sale of Landmark to Steward? Does it even have a choice?