Owner of Holy Family Hospitals Declares Bankruptcy, Haverhill and Methuen to Remain Open

Update: Gov. Maura T. Healey plans to discuss the Steward Health Care situation and what her administration has done to prepare in advance for the bankruptcy filing. Healey is expected to be joined for the 9:45 a.m. press conference at the Massachusetts State House by Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh; Department of Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein; Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell; Julie Pinkham, Massachusetts Nurses Association; and Tim Foley, SEIU 1199. The owner of Holy Family Hospitals in Haverhill and Methuen this morning filed for bankruptcy protection, but says it plans to continue to operate all of its hospitals by borrowing from its landlord. Dallas-based Steward Health Care filed under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas. The filing was not unexpected as the for-profit hospital owner, as WHAV has reported for at least a year, was unable to pay many of its bills, including one to a dialysis vendor serving its patients.

Survivors Detail Life After Lead at Haverhill Talk; Advocate Says Stories Make Her Angry and Sad

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Advocates and survivors discussed life after lead exposure at a Haverhill panel last week. Mayor Melinda E. Barrett, who introduced the event, said the city meets state and federal standards. She added that the city will be removing lead from at least 75 houses in the next three years after receiving a $2.4 million federal grant, the only grant of its kind in New England and the largest nationwide, as WHAV reported. Lead Free MA founder Andrea Watson, who hosted the panel, consumed a significant amount of the toxin after Flint, Mich. switched its drinking water to a contaminated source, a public health disaster that began in 2014.

Fish to Leave Greater Lawrence Family Health Center; Board Plans Needs Assessment and Search

Dr. Guy L. Fish, who became president and CEO of Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in 2021, is leaving the position. The Health Center’s board of directors said Tuesday it will assess the organization’s current and future needs and undertake a comprehensive search. In a statement, the board said members “appreciate the leadership Dr. Fish has provided over the last three years, especially as the Health Center navigated the challenges of COVID-19 and the transition from the pandemic, and we thank him for his leadership in the development of our strategic plan and our new Accountable Care Organization partnership.”

Fish succeeded John M. Silva. He previously served as acting CEO of Nextstage Therapeutics, CEO of Cellanyx Diagnostics and was a leader with profit and loss responsibilities for 17 years at the health care strategy consulting firm Fletcher Spaght. Greater Lawrence Family Health Center serves more than 68,000 patients with their primary health care needs at locations in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen.

Amid Steward Health Concerns, Walsh Lectures Legislature on Making Decisions in ‘Haste’

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh issued a broad warning Tuesday about hasty legislative solutions to address the role of private equity in health care, as officials and hospital leaders continue to brace for potentially major care disruptions amid Steward Health Care’s financial challenges. Walsh did not invoke any specific proposal when asked about the role of state or federal legislation to respond to the Steward crisis, following recent Beacon Hill hearings focused on the negative impact of private equity on patient care and possible strategies to boost regulatory oversight of health care transactions. “I think that the health care system in our country is really, really complicated, and I worry about broad brushstrokes that say, ‘private equity bad, not-for-profit good,’” Walsh told reporters following an event at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I think we have seen an extreme set of circumstances, the choices that Steward made as a health system to capitalize their system—it just didn’t work,” the secretary continued. “And so what we need to do when we get patients, and staff, and people and regions through this is sort of step back.

Groveland’s PFAS Water Worries Come to Pass as EPA Declares New Drinking Water Standards

What Groveland officials have been sounding the alarm about came to pass yesterday when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed new federal limits on “forever chemicals” in drinking water. As WHAV reported last month, Groveland is scrambling to identify solutions since its existing well water currently tests slightly above the limits for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Called PFAS, for short. While the town is considering options such as an estimated $22 million water treatment plant or buying water from Haverhill, Clint Richmond, conservation chair for the Massachusetts Sierra Club, made a declaration. “These costs should not be borne by ratepayers or taxpayers when the problem stems from decades of industries using these toxic forever chemicals,” he said.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center to Honor WBZ-TV’s Mallika Marshall May 1

Josh Kraft, president of the New England Patriots Foundation, will be the keynote speaker next month when Greater Lawrence Family Health Center honors Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV’s medical director. It’s all part of the Health Center’s 19th Annual Making a Difference Gala, the agency’s largest fundraiser benefitting 68,000 patients across the Merrimack Valley. Marshall is an Emmy-award-winning journalist and physician who has served as the HealthWatch Anchor for CBS Boston/WBZ-TV for more than 20 years. A practicing physician board certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics, she serves on staff at Harvard Medical School. She practices at Massachusetts General Hospital at the MGH Chelsea Urgent Care and formerly at the MGH Revere Health Center, where she worked on the front lines caring for patients with COVID-19.

Steward Health Care to Sell Physician Group to Optum, Pending Regulatory Approval

Steward Health Care, owner of Holy Family Hospitals in Haverhill and Methuen, said it plans to sell its physician group, Stewardship Health, to a UnitedHealth Group’s subsidiary, Minnesota-based Optum Financial. Stewardship Health is the parent of Stewardship Health Medical Group, which employs primary care physicians and other clinicians across nine states, according to the state’s Health Policy Commission. The company’s hospitals were not included in the deal. “This is a significant proposed change involving two large medical providers, both in Massachusetts and nationally, with important implications for the delivery and cost of health care across Massachusetts,” Health Policy Commission Director David Seltz said. “Details of the proposal will be reviewed by the HPC to examine potential impacts on health care costs, quality, access and equity.

Groveland Drinking Water Likely Does Not Comply with Upcoming PFAS Contamination Regs

Drinking water from Groveland wells appears unlikely to meet tightened and expanded state and federal regulations on so-called “forever chemicals” known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl—or PFAS—chemicals. Superintendent Colin Stokes, Groveland Water and Sewer Department and the Groveland Board of Water Commissioner say in a statement Groveland currently complies with six PFAS contaminant regulations with levels of 4.1075 parts per trillion at Well 1 and 4.392 parts per trillion at Well 3. However, proposed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulation would add four additional PFAS compounds and drop the allowed maximum level to 4 parts per trillion. Once the new regulations are accepted by the state, officials say, Groveland is expected to take “immediate action.” The Groveland Board of Water Commissioners says it is looking at a variety of options to meet new regulations with “the least impact on residents and ratepayers.” Options include building a water treatment/filtration plant in Groveland, finding sufficient new water sources that comply with the upcoming PFAS regulations or purchasing water from a neighboring community

The new regulations are expected to be adopted by the end of 2024 or early 2025 and the deadline for compliance is not yet known.