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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Attorney General’s office moved its deadline to Aug. 31 for the closing of the pending sale of Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket to Steward Health Care, the Boston-based for-profit hospital network owned by a private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management.
When the R.I. Attorney General’s office announced its approval on May 25 of the Hospital Conversions Act application by Steward for the purchase of Landmark, it stated, as Condition No. 4, “the closing will take place within 60 days of this decision.”
Because the decision was issued on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, Jodi Bourque, R.I. Assistant Attorney General and Health Care Advocate, said that the initial 60-day deadline had actually been extended by two days from July 25 to July 27. On July 25, Steward requested that the Attorney General’s office waive that condition.
At a hearing on July 27 before Silverstein, questions regarding the deadline were dealt with in sidebars before the judge and in conferences in the judge’s chambers.
In its response Monday, the Attorney General’s office denied the request to waive Condition No. 4. Instead, it amended it to read: “The closing shall take place not later than Aug. 31, 2012.”
The Aug. 31 date is one day after a scheduled Aug. 30 hearing at which Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein will hear arguments regarding a lawsuit filed by Landmark Medical Center against Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
The conflict between Blue Cross and Steward is not included as a condition of the asset purchase agreement. But two such conditions – an agreement with Thundermist Health Center, a community health center in Woonsocket, and an agreement with 21st Century Oncology, which operates as part of the cancer center at Landmark, have not been resolved, according to Special Master Jonathan N. Savage.
The decision of the change in the deadline was announced not by press release; rather, it was announced in a statement e-mailed only to a few reporters late Monday, according to Amy Kempe, the spokeswoman for the R.I. Attorney General’s office.