Report touts Carney’s positive impact on area

Carney Hospital pumped $8.1 million in community benefits into Dorchester and Mattapan in 2011 and 2012, according to the author of an economic-impact report commissioned by the system that owns the Dorchester Avenue facility. The hospital also provided the city with $2.7 million in property tax revenues.

Boston-based Health Business Group President David Williams, who put together the analysis, says the report is an independent one showing that Steward Health Care, which owns Carney Hospital, had a “major impact” on eastern Massachusetts.

System-wide, Steward provided $135 million in community benefits, William said. Steward, a for-profit entity, owns 11 hospitals, including the former six-hospital Caritas Christi chain once tied to the Archdiocese of Boston of which Carney was a part. Steward is affiliated with a private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management.

Steward bought the chain for $246 million in 2010, converting the hospitals from nonprofit to for-profit status and putting them on the tax rolls. State officials signed off on the conversion, with Steward pledging to keep the facilities open for at least three years while maintaining community benefits.

The Carney, which opened in 1863 in South Boston and moved to its current location in Dorchester in the early 1950s, has 159 beds, more than 300 physicians, and treats 37,000 patients every year. Hospital officials spent $3.8 million on community benefits in 2011 and $4.3 million in 2012, according to Williams. The programs include nutrition classes at Dorchester YMCA, breast cancer awareness efforts and mammography screening at the hospital, sponsorship of local winter farmers markets, and sponsorship of activities with the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition.

Steward has also made investments and improvements to the Carney’s physical plant, including three new operating room suites, a renovated adolescent behavioral unit, and a family medicine department organization and expansion. Steward spent a total of $13.5 million in 2011 and 2012 on construction and technology upgrades.

“We are proud of the progress we have made and we will continue to make investments at Carney Hospital to meet the evolving needs of our patients in this area,” Andy Davis, who was appointed president of the hospital in April 2012, said in a statement.

In 2011 and for several months in 2012, another president was at the helm of the Carney: Bill Walczak, the former head of the Codman Square Health Center who ran for mayor in 2013. After 14 months on the job and repeated clashes with higher-ups over the strategic direction of the hospital and his desire to focus on family medicine, Walczak left the position.

Steward officials have continually been forced to tamp down fears that the long-struggling hospital, which serves Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton, and Quincy, among other areas, would be closed or sold off.

Steward’s efforts to keep benefits flowing to the community, beyond an agreement that was part of the 2010 sale of the Caritas Christi system, are part of a strategy to show the system wants to make a profit, but “it’s not going to be at the expense of the things they’re doing in the community,” said Williams, the author of the report.

Williams also said Steward has created middle class jobs: The median salary at Steward is $47,000 a year, while in Massachusetts overall it’s $43,420. Steward also pays a minimum wage of $11.50, compared to the state’s $8. “The jobs that they have pay more than the state average and they certainly pay more than some of the places,” like retail and restaurant industries, he said.

“The Steward system directly and indirectly supports approximately 33,000 jobs and was responsible for $8.4 billion of economic impact in 2011 and 2012,” Williams’s report says. “Steward’s impact is concentrated in economically disadvantaged cities and towns where unemployment and poverty rates are above average.”

Data for economic impacts of Carney Hospital and the system in 2013 are not yet available.

Tags: