Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: December 25, 2023 Economic Forecast 2024

Healthcare 2024 economic forecast: More challenges await

PHOTO | CHRISTINE PETERSON The unfinished $29-million surgical pavilion at Heywood Hospital in Gardner

The Central Massachusetts healthcare enterprise has struggled in 2023, and despite the lessening of COVID-19 concerns, the situation going into 2024 will remain challenging in terms of financial viability and access to care.

North Central will see more trouble

When UMass Memorial Health announced its plans to rollback maternity care service by eliminating the labor and delivery unit in Leominster, the hospital system was immediately met by serious community pushback lasting the duration of the summer. Community advocates protested the closure until its last day, citing concerns about worsening access to care, especially among vulnerable populations. Despite the efforts, the unit closed in September, worsening the landscape for health care in North Central Massachusetts, particularly maternity care.

Hospital financials will continue to struggle

Heywood Healthcare in Gardner filed for bankruptcy in October, after a series of challenges including a canceled merger with UMass Memorial Health, the removal of its decade-long CEO, and a stop on construction of its $29-million surgical pavilion, which is now resulting in a series of lawsuits for unpaid work. The hospital’s financial failure is a symptom of larger macroeconomic challenges for hospital finances across the state, which may manifest in more bankruptcies in 2024.

Pandemic precautions will remain loosened

After three long years of mask mandates in hospitals, Worcester-based UMass Memorial Health, the largest healthcare system in Central Massachusetts, lifted the caregiver mask mandate in May. Less than three months later, the hospital in August reinstated the mandate amid increased spread among employees, sparking concern a fall surge was on the horizon. Since then, hospitals have worked to stay ahead of the spread and have largely made it to the end of 2023 without a significant spike for the first time since 2020.

Read 2023's top health care news below.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF