A Resolution Near in Caritas Christi Sale to Cerberus?

Why all the angst over the sale of a health care system? Here’s the problem. The future of the health care system in Massachusetts is still in a risky place. Consumers, providers, insurers, employers, policy makers, health care experts – and all the other health care stakeholders have concerns and agendas. Healthcare is a business – big business. Healthcare is probably the largest employer in the Commonwealth. Health care is intricately tied to core elements of our economy – namely higher education and technology. In reality, healthcare services and provider networks affect every single resident in the Commonwealth at one time or another.

Our case in point – the issue of the pending sale of the Caritas Christi Health Care system to the for-profit Ceberus Capital Management company. Because of the pending transition and tranfer of assets from a non-profit entity to a for-profit entity, the Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth has powerful standing in this case. The Attorney General and the State Department of Public Health held at least six joint hearings on the proposal. Local and state-wide health care groups and coalitions have been heard from as well as unions, municipal and community leaders. With the question raised about the continued “Catholic” designation of the system – even the Pope and the Vatican have been contacted. Analysts and editorial writers have raised questions from all sides. The stakeholders have weighed-in. It appears that the time for a resolution is at hand.

The players are getting antsy. The Globe is reporting today that Caritas Christi officials warned their unions that without the sale to Ceberus and resulting alleviation of debt – two hospitals in the six hospital system – St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton and Carney in Dorchester would be shut down. Jobs,  community resources, income and more – all put at-risk. Read the article here. Also, the Globe editorial today taking another tack – urges the AG to review the deal between the Caritas Christi CEO Ralph de la Torre and Ceberus – looking for full transparency with a leader so crucial and influential in the state and regional healthcare world.

The Attorney General has to evaluate in five criteria areas: compliance with non-profit and charities law; conformance with procedural due care; appropriate management of conflict of interests; the reasonableness of compensation and whether the transaction is in the public interest.

These are important considerations and the Attorney General’s decision will probably allow the project to go forward but not – many would hope – without rules, restrictions, timely reviews and updates with full fiscal transparency and clear lines of responsibility and community commitment – all laid out. We can only wait and see. Stay tuned.

For information on the two hospitals that might close: St. Elizabeth’s Hospital check  here and for Carney Hospital check here. For information about the  Holy Family Hospital – Methuen also in the Caritas Christi Healthcare system check here. Holy Family Hospital  serves the Merrimack Valley region of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.