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State activates emergency command center in response to Steward Health Care’s struggles

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BOSTON — State officials have launched a command center to coordinate a response to clinical care in Eastern Massachusetts in the wake of Steward Health Care’s financial struggles.

Gov. Maura Healey’s office announced Friday that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health activated an Emergency Operations Plan, which includes its regional Incident Command System, on Wednesday “as part of our ongoing commitment to ensure patient safety, protect access to care and preserve jobs.”

In March, Steward Health Care revealed plans to sell Stewardship Health. The for-profit company has been behind on rent and payments to vendors.

Healey has called on financially challenged Steward to hand over its hospitals to other operators.

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The state has had monitors in Steward hospitals, which include Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton and Morton Hospital in Taunton, to assess whether the facilities have the necessary supplies, equipment and staffing to deliver safe and effective care.

“As part of Emergency Operations activation, the Department has formalized an Incident Command System to coordinate the regional planning work already underway,” Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Goldstein said in a statement. “The Incident Command System incorporates the ongoing external monitoring in all Steward hospitals, enables DPH to rapidly respond to any clinical needs or issues that arise, and fosters increased communication with other regional health care organizations, first responders and community leaders.”

According to the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management, the Incident Command System was developed in the 1970s in response to a series of major wildfires in Southern California. It is commonly used for on-scene emergency response.

The state’s command center will be led by Dr. Gregg Meyer, who has spent decades as an executive at Mass General Brigham, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts General Physicians Organization and Dartmouth Health.

“A practicing primary care physician, Dr. Meyer has worked in the federal government under two administrations,” Healey’s office said in a statement. “He has extensive experience in hospital operations and crisis management and is nationally recognized for his leadership in hospital quality and safety and population health.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact, if any, the new command center would directly have on patients and staff of Steward facilities. The Enterprise reached out to spokespeople for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services seeking additional information and an interview, but didn’t immediately receive a response.

Enterprise senior reporter Cody Shepard can be reached by email at cshepard@enterprisenews.com.

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