MCLA And BMC To Open Interim Care Facility At College's Health Center
Berkshire Health Systems is working to finalize an agreement to acquire the former North Adams Regional Hospital and provide emergency services pending a federal license at the site by mid-May. Meanwhile, the Pittsfield-based company and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts are stepping up to provide medical services in the interim.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joined MCLA President Mary Grant at the North Adams campus Friday afternoon to make the announcement. Grant says the college’s wellness center, which has already added weekend morning hours for its students since the hospital closed, will serve as acute care facility for the public as soon as early next week.
“Non-emergency services,” Grant said. “These are the kinds of routine things where someone might come in with a bump or a bruise, but to make this accessible to residents of North Adams and North Berkshire.”
Grant anticipates keeping the center open till 10 p.m. weekdays and will look at additional weekend hours. BHS will help staff the facility with some of the 150 former Northern Berkshire Healthcare workers it has hired.
BMC is awaiting a federal license from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to open the emergency facility.
Patrick says the state has also brought on an independent consultant to determine the long-term medical needs of the region.
“The only part of the hospital that’s going to be opened for certain is the emergency department and it’s not going to be opened as North Adams Regional Hospital,” Patrick said. “Everybody needs to understand that. This is a Berkshire Medical Center facility and it has to be re-imagined. Some parts of it will be in spaces that were used before with people who were staffing it before, but the whole model for health services in North County are going to have to be re-imagined and are being re-imagined.”
BHS has estimated it would need to spend $10 million from its reserve funds for improvements to the shuttered facility’s emergency department. Patrick says the state is going to help support BHS, but whether that be through direct funding or operational assistance is yet to be determined.
“We’ve looked at proforma financials for a year’s worth of operation of the ED and we’re looking at how we can essentially hold Berkshire Medical whole while they take that year to stabilize and see how its working and then see what the model should be going forward,” said Patrick.
News that a restoration of emergency services is near and that steps are being taken to determine the long-term medical needs of the region are giving some in the community hope. Cindy Bird worked for 26 years as a unit secretary with Northern Berkshire Healthcare before it filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy April 3rd. She is also a delegate for Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents nearly 200 of her 530 former coworkers.
“Emergency services isn’t just limited to nurses and doctors,” Bird said after hearing the news Friday afternoon. “You still need housekeeping staff, you need secretaries, you need medical records, you need lab and you need X-ray. So there’s other components to an emergency service.”
While Bird is still unemployed, BHS has hired roughly 150 former NBH workers to staff the emergency facility, other medical practices and an interim care unit at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.