Sullivan: Holy Family Will Remain Open For Now, Parent Company to Make Announcement Soon

Haverhill City Council President Thomas J. Sullivan during his inaugural address. (WHAV News photograph.)

Despite the financial trouble of its parent company, Haverhill City Council President Thomas J. Sullivan told councilors last night Holy Family Hospital, Haverhill and Methuen, will not close imminently. He said the company, Steward Healthcare System, will make an announcement in the next few days.

Until knowing Steward’s plan, councilors said they could not do anything to help. Councilor Melissa J. Lewandowski, who pointed to “possible catastrophic outcomes for our city’s healthcare system,” motioned the council send a letter to Haverhill’s state house delegation requesting a briefing on the situation, which passed.

Mayor Melinda E. Barrett said to the council that, though state and federal legislative representatives have been in communication with Steward, the governor’s office and the hospital, they have not shared any solutions with her.

“This is an unbelievable situation we find ourselves in. I think we are perhaps victims of a Ponzi scheme,” she said. “This does not appear, to my eye at least, to be a normal operation, and I guess this is what happens when a venture capitalist buys a hospital.”

This does not come out of nowhere, according to Barrett.

“To us, who have talked to people in the community – nurses, people that work in the hospital, healthcare providers – this has been going on for some time,” she said. “I talked to some staff who told me that, for months, the janitorial service, those folks, were buying toilet paper for patients with their own money.”

Councilor John A. Michitson added that the hospital’s troubles point to structural problems community hospitals in general face in funding their operations.

“A hospital like Holy Family, Steward, here in Haverhill, [it serves] a relatively large number of low-income patients who rely on the state’s Medicaid and that typically has lower reimbursement rates than private insurance, which strains hospital budgets,” he said.

Three members of the public came forward to express anger at Steward’s mismanagement of the hospital, and support for its staff. Yonnie Collins, a School Committee member as well as night-shift nurse at Holy Family, told the council the hospital is short on beds, leaving some patients in areas where they cannot receive proper care.

“The higher acuity care you need, the more monitors and beeping you need, and because we’d been told we’re not allowed to use a certain amount of beds, so literally physical placements for patients, it’s caused a backup in the hospital,” she said. “So, patients are coming, they are sick, but they don’t have anywhere to go.”

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