WOONSOCKET – A lawyer for Landmark Medical Center’s employees union blasted state regulators Friday for dragging their feet on commencing a review of the financially troubled hospital’s application to merge with Steward Health Care System.
Chris Callaci of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) said Steward had less trouble buying an entire hospital network in a situation plagued by more red tape than it is facing with Landmark. He was referring to Steward’s acquisition of the former Caritas Christi Health Care in Massachusetts, a deal that required, among other things, approval from the Vatican.
Unwarranted delays jeopardize Landmark’s survival, said Callaci, so it’s imperative that regulators get moving.
“We all know what’s at stake here,” said Callaci. “Steward is a known entity. All the interested parties have done their job. Now it’s time for the regulators to do theirs.”
Callaci’s comments came after the state Department of Health announced that, for the second time since mid-November, it had deemed the Landmark/Steward merger application incomplete. The regulators granted the parties until Jan. 11 to supply the necessary information, an extension of two weeks.
A statement issued by state Health Director David Fine Thursday said the Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General “have identified issues that have not been sufficiently addressed by the transacting parties,” but no further details were provided.
The two agencies are reviewing the proposed merger under the state Hospital Conversions Act. Fine hinted that there would be no further extensions allowed.
“This is a one-time extension that takes into consideration and recognizes the importance of Landmark Hospital to the Woonsocket community,” he said. “We are providing this opportunity as a continuation of our collaborative efforts to assure that essential healthcare services in northern Rhode Island remain available.”
Landmark filed for receivership in Superior Court in June 2008, saying it was on the brink of insolvency. The court appointed a “special master,” Pawtucket lawyer Jonathan Savage, to embark on a search for a financially sound health care provider willing to buy Landmark.
That search culminated in May, when Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein approved the sale to Steward. Silverstein urged regulators to consider the merger as quickly as possible in the interest of preserving a key provider of community-based health care in the Greater Woonsocket area.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office declined comment on Callaci’s remarks.