Healey lays it on Steward: Get out!

Gov. Maura Healey has had enough of Steward Health Care and its elusive CEO, Ralph de la Torre, who has brought the state’s health care system to a precarious tipping point. In a stinging rebuke made public on Tuesday, Healey sent de la Torre a letter demanding that Steward unseal its financial records and move “immediately” to find new operators to take over their Massachusetts hospitals, including Dorchester’s Carney Hospital.

The letter, dated Tuesday, basically accuses de la Torre of lying to state regulators as they scramble to keep the Carney and other Steward assets safe and open. She instructs him to comply with state inspectors, who are now monitoring all of the Steward-run hospitals and warns that “we will take all actions necessary – in consultation with hospital leadership – to protect patients, including freezing admissions, closing beds, canceling procedures, and transferring patients to other hospitals.”

Healey’s toughest admonitions are aimed at what she characterizes as Steward’s refusal to comply with court orders to turn over financial documents essential to making broader decisions about the hospitals’ fates.

“But you and your team have not been forthcoming, truthful, or responsive about what’s happening with your financial status, operating plans, and contingency strategies,” Healey wrote, reminding de la Torre that in her prior job as Massachusetts attorney general, she “successfully defended the authority of the state to require you to provide this information, and the court has ordered you to do so. Yet you have refused to comply with the court order and continued to delay and obfuscate. During that time, there have been reports of mismanagement, unpaid vendors, legally questionable practices, and exorbitant profits for your equity partners and yourself, all while your hospitals continued to struggle financially.”

Here’s the bottom line from the governor: It’s time for de la Torre and his team to go.

“The time has come to move past our many months of discussions and begin executing a safe, orderly transition of your seven licensed facilities in Massachusetts to new operators as soon as possible,” Healey wrote. “This begins with your commitment to fully disclose the financial information we have requested by close of business on February 23, 2024. Your continued refusal to do so, particularly at this moment, is irresponsible and an affront to the patients, workers, and communities that the Steward hospitals serve.”

Healey’s letter closes frostily: “Now is the time to put your patients, staff, and communities first. Turn this information over so that we can come together to protect health care and jobs in our communities. There is no time to wait.”

And if the pointed contents of Healey’s letter were not enough to get de la Torre’s attention, it surely will not escape his legal team’s notice that Healey decided to send copies of her missive to just two other public officials: Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell and US Attorney for Massachusetts Joshua Levy.

Healey isn’t the only elected official on the offensive this week. US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey –in fact, the whole Massachusetts congressional delegation – are also demanding answers from Cerberus, the private equity firm that Warren blames “for looting Steward Health Care.”

Healey and the congressional team are spot-on in their prescription. It’s time for new management at Carney and other Steward hospitals that will actually live up to the company’s name.

Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter