Good Sam doctor says conditions have hit rock bottom under Steward – Enterprise News

BROCKTON — A doctor who has treated patients at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton for 17 years — starting before Steward Health Care existed — said staffing and supply shortages have hit rock bottom.

“It couldn’t be worse than it is now,” said the unnamed physician. The Enterprise agreed not to use his name or specialty because he was concerned Steward could see his comments as a violation of its employee code of conduct. The doctor plans to leave this summer for a non-Steward-owned facility.

Steward, informed of the doctor’s criticisms, declined to comment.

To stay or go? It’s a decision on the minds of thousands of Steward employees as the for-profit company enters bankruptcy, clouding the future for residents who rely on the chain’s eight hospitals in Massachusetts.

The doctor said his sense is that more physicians are leaving than nurses, possibly because nurses would retain union seniority. Steward has all 31 of its hospitals nationwide up for sale. If it can’t find buyers, Massachusetts hospitals would go to auction on June 25, Steward attorney Roy C. Schrock told a bankruptcy judge on Monday.

“I think a lot of people are confident that someone will take it over and there’ll be a reasonable transition,” said the Good Sam physician.

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A witness to Steward’s beginning, middle and end

The doctor has seen the entire Steward saga first-hand. He began working at Good Sam in 2008 as part of a private doctors group. Two years later, the nascent Steward, backed by the private equity company Cerberus Capital Management, bought Good Sam and five other troubled hospitals from non-profit Caritas Christi Health Care in 2010.

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Ralph de la Torre, who ran Caritas Christi, founded the new, for-profit Steward. At the time, many observers praised him as an innovator. He rocketed to influence in Bay State political circles, hosting a fundraiser featuring President Barack Obama at his West Newton home. The October 2010 gala raised $900,000 for Democratic senate candidates, according to Boston.com.

Those early years under Steward were OK, the Good Sam doctor said.

“It was fine. Pay was about the same,” he said, adding that Caritas was in trouble and that someone needed to come in.

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In 2015, Steward terminated the doctor’s group contract and offered the physicians to be direct employees. He took the deal. The following year, Steward sold hospital real estate to Medical Properties Trust in a lease-buyback arrangement that’s a common feature of private equity management. The doctor said he saw no immediate impact from the sale.

Fast-forward to four years ago.

“They were always cheap and very opaque,” the doctor said of Steward, “But staffing and supplies got thinner and thinner.”

In the last two years, the doctor said, the staffing and supply situation became worse still.

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A ‘cult of personality’ around de la Torre

In the doctor’s telling, a “cult of personality” around de la Torre evolved, especially among senior management. This particular doctor did not subscribe to it. He found the term “physician-led” especially galling.

“The physician employees at Steward despise Ralph and his crew every bit as much as the public, and probably more so,” the doctor said in an email to The Enterprise.

While criticising Steward’s business model has become popular, the doctor wanted to make it clear that the ownership is separate from his day-to-day colleagues.

“I’m leaving Good Sam because I know I have to,” he said. “But I am very sad to leave. It’s a great community hospital, and I’ve been surrounded by outstanding co-workers throughout my tenure.”

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


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