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Committee hears case for state receivership of distressed hospitals

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(The Center Square) – A pair of companion bills proposing state receivership for Massachusetts-based hospitals facing closure received support from speakers offering testimony at a Thursday legislative committee meeting.

The Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health held hearings on dozens of healthcare-related bills.

House Bill 2143, and companion legislation Senate Bill 1406, have been introduced this legislative session as a growing number of statewide hospitals and freestanding clinics have shuttered.

The bills propose placing such venues into receivership when an existing provider wants to relinquish them, keep the sites open during a review process, and ultimately seek alternative providers before operations cease.

Several speakers providing testimony said some of the closures in recent years have resulted in a need for more critical resources in specific areas of Massachusetts.

For instance, the closure of the MetroWest Cancer Center in Framingham left the city without any outpatient oncology resources, meaning residents in the community need to travel greater distances to larger cities for radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Rep. Peter Capano, D-Lynn, the sponsor of HB 2143, said the prevalence of recent closures also strains resources.

“As people know, our emergency rooms are packed,” Capano said. “It is truly going to get worse if we don’t do something about it.”

Jefferson Cruz Ruales, who lives in the state’s North Shore region, was among the residents and advocates providing testimony to the committee. He and his wife, who is expecting a baby, have been directly impacted by recent closures and consolidations, as they have to look outside their community for necessary services.

“Healthcare is only as good as someone’s access to it,” Cruz Ruales said. “We must do better. The time to act is now.”

Danvers resident Julie Curtis, a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, also spoke to the panel.

“How, in a state that pioneered expanding healthcare to its citizens, could this be true?” Curtis said of the closures. “This is not acceptable.”

Esther Hausman, who has worked as a certified nurse midwife at the North Shore Birth Center in Beverly, was impacted when the facility closed in late 2022.

“Our voices were not heard,” Hausman said of calls to keep the facility open.

Several speakers also testified on House Bill 2128 and companion legislation, Senate Bill 1472, which proposes new workforce safety protocols for home healthcare workers.

Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, is the sponsor of SB 1472. He provided testimony to the committee on the rationale behind the legislation.

“Unfortunately, violence against home healthcare workers is rising,” Timilty said. “We rely on the excellent care our home healthcare workers provide in every single community in the Commonwealth. I believe it is our responsibility to ensure they are safe.”

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