By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE â€“ With the unanimous positive vote by the R.I. Senate on Monday evening, legislation changing the Hospital Conversions Act has been sent to the governorâ€™s desk to be signed.
The legislation, 2012-H 7283A, 2012-S 2180B, eliminates the prohibition on for-profit hospital systems from buying more than one hospital in Rhode Island during a three-year period.
The change had been sought by Steward Health Care, a for-profit hospital system based in Boston that is interested in acquiring community hospitals in the Rhode Island market in addition to the 11 that it owns in Massachusetts.
The change in the law had been added as a condition to Stewardâ€™s asset purchase agreement for Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket and its sister facility, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island in North Smithfield.
Once the sale is completed, both facilities will be incorporated in Delaware, not Rhode Island.
Tweaks in the final version of the legislation include the ability of a potential purchaser to seek redress in Superior Court for determinations made by state agency regulators regarding whether or not an application is deemed complete.
In addition, the phrase of â€śRhode Islandâ€ť was removed from the section regarding the expedited review for nonprofit hospitals seeking to merge.
â€śWeâ€™re looking at creating a climate where, if thereâ€™s an entity, be it public or private, that is able and willing to keep our community hospitals open and serving the community, we will work with them,â€ť said House Majority Leader Nicholas A. Mattiello.
â€śThis legislation makes it possible to talk to whomever is interested and place whatever restrictions are necessary on an agreement with them if they are willing to run a community hospital,â€ť added Mattiello, a democrat.