December 24. 2014 3:00AM
QUINCY – The city’s 124-year-old hospital has discharged its last patient and will officially close Friday.
On Tuesday, the state’s Department of Public Health approved Steward Health Care’s plan to close Quincy Medical Center at 11:59 p.m. Friday, then immediately open a satellite emergency room at the same location at 114 Whitwell St. The satellite ER, to operate under Steward’s license for Carney Hospital in Dorchester, will be open around the clock.
Quincy, with a population of more than 93,000, will become the largest city in New England without a hospital. Steward is closing the hospital after years of financial losses.
Steward, a for-profit company, had planned to keep the acute-care hospital open until Dec. 31, but the closure was pushed up after the last admitted patient left Tuesday. The hospital stopped admitting new patients Saturday.
“As we approached a (patient) census of zero, it made sense to wind down operations,” Dr. Mark Girard, president of Steward hospitals, said.
The Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it is waiving the law that says hospitals must give 90 days of notice before closing. Steward gave notice less than two months ago.
“Because of significant declines in patient volume, the department has determined that this closure timeline is necessary and appropriate to protect the health and safety of patients served by QMC,” Sherman Lohnes, director of the state’s Division of Health Care Quality, wrote to Steward.
The state also approved Steward’s plan to open a satellite ER at 114 Whitwell St. immediately after the hospital closes. The satellite ER will include on-site diagnostic radiology, such as CT scans and ultrasound, pharmacy and laboratory services.
Girard said many of the same nurses and doctors already in Quincy will staff the satellite ER. Patients in need of inpatient care will be transferred to another hospital.
Steward said it will keep an ER in Quincy until Dec. 31, 2015, though the location could change during the year.
Girard said Quincy’s Veterans Affairs clinic will remain open inside the closed hospital until the Boston VA has finalized a new location.
When Steward bought the hospital in Bankruptcy Court in 2011, the company signed an agreement approved by Attorney General Martha Coakley that said it would keep the hospital open for at least seven years and give at least six months’ notice before closing.
Mayor Thomas Koch said the attorney general’s office is the only agency that can enforce the agreement.
“Our legal team is still working with the attorney general’s office to make the best out of a difficult situation,” Koch said Tuesday.
Christopher Loh, a spokesman for Coakley, said the office was still in discussions with Steward about the 2011 agreement.
The closure of Quincy Medical Center will eliminate 545 jobs, though Steward has said some of those employees have been offered new jobs within the company.
Patrick Ronan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.