By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – Despite winning approval by the Rhode Island Senate for legislative changes in the Hospital Conversions Act that would allow it to purchase additional nonprofit hospitals within the Rhode Island market without having to wait three years after their pending purchase of Landmark Medical Center is approved, Steward Health Care issued a statement on April 17 saying that it wanted further changes and amendments.
“We are disappointed that our proposed amendments were not incorporated into the Senate version of the bill,” Steward’s statement read. “However, those changes made by the Senate are a step in the right direction. Hopefully the House of Representatives will agree that it is important to facilitate outside investment into Rhode Island’s health care system and include our proposed amendments. That action, with a final bill reflecting them, will send a clear signal that Steward’s investment is welcome in the state of Rhode Island.”
The for-profit hospital system, which owns 10 hospitals in Massachusetts, has employed two of Rhode Island’s top lobbyists, Joseph Walsh and Robert Goldberg, to push Steward’s agenda. The lobbyists have been joined by former Mass. House Speaker and now radio talk-show host Thomas M. Finneran, who has also been retained to lobby in Rhode Island on Steward’s behalf.
The statement was issued through Steward’s Rhode Island public relations firm, Duffy & Shanley. The firm was unable to provide an answer to state what exactly were the changes being sought by Steward, referring the question to Steward spokesman Christopher Murphy.
Murphy, without citing specifics, claimed that Steward’s proposed amendments “would make the review process the same for both non-profit and for-profit hospitals.” Steward, he continued, also wanted to make changes to prevent what Murphy termed “onerous business conditions” from being attached to each sale, so that regulators could review potential hospital acquisitions individually. Once again, Murphy chose not provide any specifics.