Daily routine at Sebastian River hospital seems relatively normal


Spending a few hours of a normal weekday at and around the Sebastian River Medical Center, whose parent company, Steward Health Systems, has been operating under bankruptcy law protections, at times seems almost surreal.

Even though no one knows what’s going to happen to the hospital and who will own it in a few weeks or months after a supposed bankruptcy court auction to sell off Steward’s 31 hospitals around the U.S., everything seems to proceed more or less as usual at the north Indian River County hospital.

Patients are checking in for procedures, relatives are coming to visit their loved ones recuperating in the one of the hospital’s 140-odd rooms, and vendors are delivering critical supplies for the hospital to continue to function.

One such vendor of supplies for the Sebastian hospital’s operating rooms said he had no trouble getting paid and everything was operating normally. Patients are also keeping appointments and seeing their doctors at Steward-owned physician practices around the area.

Employees as well as vendors all know about the bankruptcy declaration, of course, but what’s happening in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, which is overseeing the negotiations for the sale of Steward’s assets, or at corporate headquarters in Dallas, might as well be a million miles away.

Sebastian’s situation is also different from the scene in Massachusetts where state regulators are keeping a wary eye on things as Steward’s hospitals in that area are said to be the biggest money losers and might even have to close. Sebastian, on the other hand, is a potentially valuable property expected to easily find one or more willing buyers.

The major “event” of the past week might have been the appearance of a popular food truck, which shows up at the hospital with a new menu about twice a month. A trip to the food truck parked on the south side of the hospital near an employees-only entrance for a decent lunch – a spicy shrimp wrap was the special of the day – is always a popular brief outing for nurses and other hospital staff. The $18 price tag didn’t seem to scare anyone, and the talk in the line at the food truck sort of became the equivalent of what becomes “water cooler chitchat” at other workplaces.

The food truck owner said business has been brisk and has not suffered since the bankruptcy.

Auctions are scheduled for later this summer after it is determined exactly what assets are up for sale.

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