House holds Hospital Conversions Act

THE HOUSE Corporations Committee decided to hold off on passing the Hospital Conversions Act, a bill that could help Steward Medial's purchase of Rhode Island hospitals.
Posted 5/25/12

PROVIDENCE - Those counting on the Hospital Conversions Act to be approved May 24 by the House Corporations Committee will have to wait until another day.

No direct action was taken Thursday night at a committee meeting.

The bill received plenty of testimony from both sides and legislators decided to receive more information before scheduling another hearing.

“We’ve held this bill back for further study because obviously we wanted to hear feedback this evening,” said Brian Patrick Kennedy, a democrat from Hopkington and chairman of the committee.

The Senate version of the Hospital Conversions Act that passed last month removes a ban on a for-profit hospital from converting more than one Rhode Island nonprofit hospital to a for-profit in a three year span.

The Senate bill also allows the R.I. Department of Health and Office of the Attorney General to impose conditions on any conversion, including those keeping the hospital’s ties and contributions to the local community. Lastly, it streamlines the application process.

Currently, the House bill only eliminates the waiting period but is subject to change.

These changes to the act are advantageous to Massachusetts-based, for-profit hospital operator Steward Health Care Services.

The company has made a bid to take over the nonprofit Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket and its affiliate, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island, which has had financial difficulties for the last year.

The act plays no role in the proposed purchase but could pave the way for Steward to quickly purchase hospitals in the state which are financially strapped including The Westerly Hospital, which declared bankruptcy last December.

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