Sleep HealthCenters, a for-profit chain of sleep clinics mostly in New England, abruptly closed this week, leaving some patients who showed up for appointments facing locked doors and a closure notice citing “circumstances beyond our control.”
The Boston-based company has been struggling financially, in large part because more of the diagnostic services once provided at a sleep center are being conducted in patients’ homes, Richard Mikels, the company’s attorney, said Friday night. As a result, all 19 locations, including 11 in Massachusetts, have been closed.
“This change from the pervasive use of sleep centers to the pervasive use of home testing, which is less lucrative for the provider, is actually at the core of the problem,” Mikels said.
Patient Susan Roberts of Allston said she received an automated phone call earlier this week reminding her of Friday’s appointment and to bring the mask that she wears for sleep apnea.
“I should have known there was something up when the parking lot was empty, and there were not cars parked at the Sleep HealthCenters designated spaces,” she said.
Then she saw the notice taped to the door. “Circumstances out of our control—whatever the heck that means,” she said.
The same message, announcing that the centers have “ceased all clinical and lab operations” and will work with patients to transition them to other providers, was read over the voicemail at local centers and at one in Arizona, where the company has three locations. Other sites were in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Mary Lou Jordan of Cambridge received a robocall announcement of the closure on Friday. Since a horse accident disrupted her body’s ability to regulate its own sleep-wake cycle, she has frequently been treated at the Brighton location by a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician.
“I don’t know what the heck I’m going to do,” she said. She said she hoped she would hear from her physician with information about where she could get her care now.
The Brighton center contracted with doctors from the Brigham and had an agreement to use the hospital’s name in its marketing.
But hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough said the Brigham was not involved in any of the centers’ business decisions.
Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, the company’s chief medical officer, is an associate physician at the Brigham. McDonough said that he has privileges there but is not a hospital employee, and that while he attempted to notify a colleague at the Brigham, senior hospital leaders were not aware of the closure. Patients who have relationships with Brigham physicians could contact their doctor’s office at the Brigham or the hospital system’s sleep clinic at Faulkner Hospital for assistance, she said.
New England Sinai Hospital, part of the Steward Health Care system, leased space to the Sleep HealthCenters Stoughton location and the hospital’s physicians provided services there. But, similarly, spokesman Chris Murphy said the hospital was not involved in the center’s business.
“It’s a completely independent company,” he said. He said New England Sinai was referring Stoughton patients to a sleep center at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.
Mikels said the company is working to notify patients who have upcoming appointments of the closure. As for those people, like Roberts, who were surprised at the door, the company “tried to avoid that,” he said. “But when something happens like this—it sort of surprised everybody.”
Correction: Because of incorrect information provided by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, an earlier version of this story mischaracterized Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Epstein’s handling of the closure. He attempted to notify a colleague at the Brigham, where he is an associate physician, but senior hospital leaders were not aware of the closure.Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.