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BOSTON (WHDH) - Embattled company Steward Health Care has filed for bankruptcy.

The company, which operates eight hospitals in Massachusetts, said Monday it does not expect any interruptions in day-to-day operations. The company also said its hospitals, medical centers and physician’s offices are open and continuing to serve patients.

“Steward Health Care has done everything in its power to operate successfully in a highly challenging health care environment,” Dr. Ralph de la Torre, Chief Executive Officer of Steward, said in a statement. “Filing for Chapter 11 restructuring is in the best interests of our patients, physicians, employees, and communities at this time.”

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh said this move was expected by the Healey administration.

“Today, Steward Health Care moved forward with a bankruptcy filing under federal law – an action for which the Healey-Driscoll administration has been preparing,” she said in a statement. “Steward hospitals remain open, and patients should not hesitate to seek care.” 

Walsh said the Healey administration “is working with Steward and any potential partners to support an orderly transfer of ownership that protects access to care, preserves jobs and stabilizes our health care system.”

Steward operates St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, Haverhill Hospital in Haverhill, Morton Hospital in Taunton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Norwood Hospital, and St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River.

Steward has been struggling financially, prompting concern among state leaders and others in the health care industry. The company has not publicly filed financial records since 2020.

On Monday, the Massachusetts Nurses Association said the potential loss of any of Steward’s hospitals “will have devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of residents from the South Shore to southern New Hampshire.” 

“However, Steward going through the process of reorganization provides an opportunity for other stakeholders to take long-awaited action and center the voices of caregivers and patients,” the nurses association said.

In its statement, Steward pointed to insufficient reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid and increased costs of labor and medical supplies as contributing factors to the decision to file for bankruptcy.

While Steward’s announcement rippled across the region, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans President and CEO Lora Pellegrini said the association and its member plans “understand the uncertainty raised by Steward Health Care’s action today to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.”

“However, this filing does not mean that the system’s hospitals, medical centers, or physician groups will close; patients can continue to receive care at all Steward facilities,” Pellegrini said. “MAHP member plans will continue to provide coverage at Steward facilities.” 

Pellegrini urged anyone with immediate concerns about insurance coverage or access to contact their health plan’s member services department for help.

House speaker says legislators plan to address regulatory gaps 

Reacting Monday morning, state House Speaker Ronald Mariano said he has “the utmost confidence in Secretary Kate Walsh and the Healey Administration’s preparedness for this scenario, and in their commitment to preserving access to care.” 

“I also have every belief in the ability of our hospital leaders to support the state’s response, and in the health care providers who will continue to care for each and every patient that arrives at a Steward hospital in the months to come, regardless of what may be happening at a Texas bankruptcy court,” Mariano said. 

Mariano said “It is the Legislature’s responsibility to ensure that what happened with Steward Health Care never happens again.”

He continued, saying the state House of Representatives will soon take up “comprehensive legislation to address gaps in our regulatory process that Steward exploited.” Marino said legislation will also seek to stabilize the health care system and address rising health care costs. 

State leaders speak after Steward bankruptcy filing

Gov. Maura Healey and other state leaders addressed the Steward bankruptcy in a press conference Monday morning, repeatedly telling Massachusetts residents that Steward hospitals remain open despite the bankruptcy filing. 

“Patients should keep your appointments,” Healey said. “Continue to seek care when you need it at these facilities.”

Healey said state Department of Public Health personnel remain on site at Steward hospitals “to ensure that they are providing the highest standard of care that all Massachusetts patients are entitled to.”

“Ultimately, this is a step toward our goal of getting Steward out of Massachusetts,” Healey said.

While speaking Monday morning, officials said they were prepared for Steward’s filing. In the hours, days and weeks ahead, officials said they will advocate Massachusetts interests in bankruptcy proceedings. 

Walsh also announced resources for patients at local Steward hospitals, including a hotline and a website available online.

Though she acknowledged Steward’s operations may “wind down in time,” state Attorney General Andrea Campbell said any changes in the company’s footprint in Massachusetts will still be subject to state law.

Patients, staff react to Steward announcement

At the federal level, Rep. Stephen Lynch shared his reaction Monday.

“For patients and families whose loved ones are relying on critical care, it causes great anxiety and trepidation on the part of those families,” said Lynch, whose congressional district includes four Steward hospitals. “They’re not quite sure they’ll be able to receive that life sustaining care.”

Despite assurances from public officials, Registered Nurse Audra Sprague told 7NEWS she wonders how long Steward facilities will actually stay open.

“You can’t believe a word that they say,” said Sprauge, who has worked in the Nashoba Valley Medical Center emergency room for 16 years. “They said in the beginning they weren’t gonna file for bankruptcy.” 

Francis Jenner, an 80-year-old Steward patient, also expressed concern. 

“Keep your fingers crossed,” she said. 

“When you get to be my age, you want to have someone you can go to all the time for things and I get a little worried about that,” she continued.

The state launched a call center and website with resources for Steward patients and employees. The call center can be reached at (617) 468-2189, and toll-free at (833) 305-2070.

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