North Adams hospital closing, 500 jobs lost

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) — North Adams Regional Hospital and related medical services in the western Massachusetts town will close beginning on Friday, the company that owns them said Tuesday.

The Berkshire Eagle reported the closings will leave 530 full- and part-time workers without jobs and thousands of patients seeking alternatives. The health care businesses serve northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts and nearby rural areas of Vermont and New York state.

Parent company Northern Berkshire Healthcare said its trustees made the decision based on its “worsening financial status.” The hospital emerged from bankruptcy in 2012. A spokesman said employees got the news Tuesday afternoon and the company said it will help laid off workers file for unemployment benefits.

“Board members, management, physicians, and employees have worked together with dedication and commitment to prevent this outcome,” trustees chairwoman Julia Bolton said in a statement. “But now, given our finances and the daunting challenges that small rural community hospitals are facing in this healthcare environment, we can no longer continue.”

NBH President and CEO Timothy Jones said it is working to transition patients to other providers in the region.

“The implications of this decision are far-reaching, but our primary concern is for our patients,” Jones said. He said the hospital opened in 1885 and has served the area for 129 years “with dedication and pride.”

NBH also includes the Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, and Northern Berkshire Physicians Group, which includes Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, Northern Berkshire OB/GYN, and Northern Berkshire General Surgery.

David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said it questions if the company followed state regulations on the closing. “We are meeting with all relevant public officials, working with others in the community and exploring every legal avenue open to us to save this hospital, or to at least ensure a safe transition for our patients,” he said.

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Below is a statement by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United:

North Adams Regional Hospital has announced this afternoon that they are closing the hospital as of Friday, providing the patients, community and workforce served by this hospital with just three days’ notice.

NARH is a community hospital that provides desperately needed emergency and inpatient care to an isolated, rural community in the northwest corner of the state. It is outrageous to close this hospital so abruptly with no plan in place for the patients impacted by this callous decision.

We are not convinced that the board of trustees and management has fulfilled the legal requirements to allow the closure of this facility, and in any case, to do so in this manner is unacceptable.

While the board of trustees may have chosen to abandon this community, the nurses of NARH have not. We are meeting with all relevant public officials, working with others in the community and exploring every legal avenue open to us to save this hospital, or to at least ensure a safe transition for our patients.

The closing highlights a growing crisis in Massachusetts where the consolidation of hospitals into large corporate networks (such as Baystate Health and Partners), has left smaller community hospitals, particularly those that serve poorer communities, more vulnerable, with no source of support to ensure all communities have access to the care and services they need.

In addition to fighting to save this and other hospitals and services currently in jeopardy, the MNA/NNU is promoting a ballot initiative, the Hospital Profitable Profit Transparency and Fairness Act, which would establish a process for funding needed services and facilities for all communities in the Commonwealth. Coincidentally, a nurse from NARH testified about this issue at a State House hearing held on Monday.

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 Below is a statement from 1199SEIU, Mass. largest healthcare union, on North Adams Regional Hospital closure:

“This closure is unacceptable. Unfortunately, this crisis in North Adams is indicative of significant problems and disparities within the broader Massachusetts health care financing system.

Community hospitals in Massachusetts are in crisis largely as a result of low Medicaid rates and the disproportionately higher commercial payments made to higher-cost hospitals.

Healthcare workers are calling on state officials to immediately intervene and protect the vital, cost-effective services provided by North Adams Regional Hospital. This is a potentially devastating development for patients and workers alike.

This is a matter of life and death for many in the impacted communities who could lose access to emergency hospital services. A solution simply must be found.” – Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East