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How will the public respond to Landmark sale?

April 9, 2012

As I reported earlier, Rhode Islanders with something to say about the sale of Landmark Medical Center to Steward Health Care System can speak up today.

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?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Moe Howard permalink
    April 9, 2012 6:38 pm

    Unless Dr. Dela Torre is “csaught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl”, the Steward proposal will be approved. Politically, the 1100 jobs at stake in Woonsocket is a trump card held by Steward.Steward’s recent court approved amendments to the Asset Purchase Agreement and its recent manuvering of Blue Cross into Court “ordered” mediation are clear evidence that Steward wants to maximize its leverage on a variety of issues. That leverage will disappear or at least diminish following the purchase. Steward looks verty good compared to the alternative, if you are from the Woonsocket area. Entrance of Steward into the RI market will certainly change the tenor- fasten your seartbelts.

    • Moe Howard permalink
      April 9, 2012 7:57 pm

      Also . . . this stooge was in the audience this afternoon where Steward “heard not a discouraging word” – it was a local love fest – a desperate plea fromk a down on its luck city to the DoH and AG to please approve the deal . . . and hurry up! There were no comments from any statewide interests.

      • April 10, 2012 10:30 am

        Hi Moe-

        Why didn’t you say anything? I was surprised no one testified against the sale.

  2. Moe Howard permalink
    April 10, 2012 12:30 pm

    At this point, there seems to be two choices- approve Steward or see LMC close. Closure of LMC is not politically acceptable. Steward understands the political expediency of approving LMC (jobs, jobs, jobs) and is attempting to take every advantage of the desperation that was so visible yesterday. I function in a political world- what a shock in RI, right?- and don’t need to weigh in and make enemies to no purpose. Whether LMC closes or not is not a big issue to me.

    Steward’s entrance into RI will shake things up. As a hanger on to these matters, it will be more interesting for me with them, though I do fear the out and out capitalism that underlies the Steward efforts. Its ultimately about profits for the investors at Cyberus. When it makes sense for Cyberus to cash out, they will either sell the system or take it public. Promises from those at the Steward level are meaningless.

    My cynical snickering inner self was amused to hear the testimony of current and former patients who attributed their very presence yesterday to being “saved” by the first class care at LMC. The failures did not show . . .

    So RI powers that be will play a game of political chicken with Steward- yeilding to Steward’s demands only when there is no alternative and the threat to walk away is believed. At this point I believe the deal will get consummated without yeilding to the blackmail that new “good citizen” Steward is bringing to the Biggest Little State in the Onion”. I favor no changes in response to Steward’s demands, but some (especially those with connections to poor old Woonsocket) may have weak knees.

    My walk along Main Street to and from the hearing at City Hall was extremely depressing. Woonsocket’s day is long gone . . .

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