WOONSOCKET – Steward Health Care’s deadline for closing on the sale of Landmark Medical Center has been extended another month, until Sept. 30, but Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has made it clear he’s running out of patience.
In a letter written to Steward this week, Kilmartin’s office says further extensions of the closing deadline are contingent on continued good-faith negotiations between the for-profit hospital chain from Boston and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
If talks are still ongoing, Kilmartin’s office says it will consider one additional request for an extension, until Oct. 31, but it could be the last one.
“For the reasons set forth in this letter, the parties should not anticipate any further extensions beyond this date in the absence of an extraordinary and unanticipated occurrence,” said the letter, signed by Dep. Attorney Gen. Gerald Coyne and sent to Steward lawyer Jeffrey Chase Lubitz.
An agreement on reimbursement rates between Blue Cross and Steward, or the lack of one, has emerged as a major obstacle in bringing the sale to fruition. In dueling lawsuits filed in Superior Court last year, Landmark accused Blue Cross of squeezing the hospital into receivership in June 2008 with unfairly low reimbursements for medical procedures, but Blue Cross countered that the hospital had little but poor management to blame for its financial woes.
In July, both sides ramped up the stakes, as Blue Cross put members on notice that it is seeking the state’s permission to drop Landmark from its network of covered hospitals because contract talks with Landmark and Steward had collapsed. The hospitals, with support from the Untied Nurses and Allied Professionals union, countered with a high profile advertising campaign in which Blue Cross was portrayed as a monopolistic, self-serving organization that had forsaken its non-profit, charitable mission.
Read more in Thursday's print edition.