As Steward Health flails, once-supporters of Ralph de la Torre now criticize the CEO

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Many in the health care industry were unwilling to speak on the record about de la Torre, but in a dozen interviews, some blamed the company's flagging finances on greed. And some are taking particular aim at de la Torre, including those who helped propel his career.

Steward Health Care, the troubled operator of nine Massachusetts hospitals, is inextricably linked to the drive and personality of its first — and only — CEO, the once highly regarded Dr. Ralph de la Torre.

Dr. Ralph de la Torre, then-president and CEO of Caritas Christi, right, conferred with Chairman of the Board Jim Karam after speaking at the final public hearing regarding the sale of the Carney Hospital to Steward Heath Care Systems in 2010. At a 2014 fundraiser, de la Torre spoke passionately about his mission to provide people with"really good health care in their community — not just where they can afford it, but where they can access it."

As chair of the board at Partners HealthCare, later rebranded Mass General Brigham, Connors introduced de la Torre to the people looking for the next leader at Caritas. Connors said a mutual friend introduced them. Connors knew of de la Torre's reputation as a surgeon and an innovator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But Connors said he now believes de la Torre's objectives changed.

De la Torre's skills as a surgeon were widely admired, although his medical license has since expired. Yet even at Beth Israel, his ambition and personal style alienated some people. "I'm not opposed to people taking care of themselves, but he forgot to take care of the hospitals and the patients," Connors said.

Steward moved its headquarters to Texas a year after the deal. In 2020, a physicians group, led by de la Torre, bought out Cerberus entirely and obtained a controlling stake in Steward. Today, the company operates more than 30 hospitals in eight states and employs some 16,000 people in Massachusetts alone.

When thinking about De La Torre now, Dreyfus, the former Blue Cross Blue Shield leader, described de la Torre as"a tough negotiator" who should get credit for helping to preserve some Massachusetts community hospitals.

Source: News Formal (newsformal.com)

 

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