Hospitals ‘looted’ at ‘expense of patients’

BROCKTON — Kianara Ruiz’s patient needed a wound dressed. She had to search floor after floor of Good Samaritan Medical Center amid supply shortages.

“I could not even take care of a wound dressing because it was not in our supplies in the closet,” the certified nursing assistant said Friday. “It’s embarrassing that I have to go throughout four floors just to find the supplies that I need.”

For the second time in as many weeks, Brockton’s only remaining trauma hospital received a tour by a high-level delegation. Last week it was U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-8th.) On Friday, March 1, it was U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D) who paid a visit.

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In a post-tour press conference, Markey announced he would convene a Senate subcommittee hearing in Boston on April 3 to spotlight how Steward reached this point and where to go from here. Steward, a Dallas-based for-profit company, has confirmed it plans to leave the Massachusetts market. And Gov. Maura Healey has said she wants the company gone.

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Markey: Steward ‘looted’ hospitals for profit

“We’re going to identify permanent systemic solutions that have to be put in place to ensure that hospitals are not looted for the well being of private, wealthy millionaires and billionaires at the expense of patients,” Markey said.

Markey traced the problem to ownership by private equity firms. Defenders of the sector say they perform a necessary, if ghoulish, function in the economy. In 2016, Steward sold its buildings in Massachusetts to a real estate investment trust, Medical Properties Trust.

“When Steward decided to sell out to real estate investors instead of investing in the hospitals here in Massachusetts, they cut quality corners, overworked health providers and let emergency room lines grow,” said Markey. “And I saw that here today in the emergency room.”

The senator said he’d invite Steward executives like CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre to the April 3 subcommittee hearing.

‘Taxpayer dollars to float on their yachts’

Markey said the chain received $675 million in COVID relief funds that, while properly spent on patient care, made room for spending he sees as unjustified.

“They took taxpayer dollars to float on their yachts, all while their hospitals, the Steward hospitals, drowned in debt without the revenues they needed in order to provide the services for the community,” Markey said.

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Five doubles shifts in a row

Meanwhile, workers like Marsela Vropi, an X-ray technician report working extreme hours. The bleary-eyed Vropi said Friday she’d just worked five double shifts in a row.

“The morale is low,” said Ruiz, the certified nursing assistant. “Everyone’s overworked. Stressed mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And they are at their wit’s end.”

Still, both Vropi and Ruiz said that with proper staffing and support, Good Sam could make a quick turnaround. Until then, the remaining workers hold on.

“Every day you hear someone’s quitting,” said Ruiz. “Every single day.”

Send your news tips to reporter Chris Helms by email at CHelms@enterprisenews.com or connect on X at @HelmsNews.


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