NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (WWLP) – After a court order forced North Adams Regional Hospital to keep their emergency room open, Attorney General Martha Coakley is now looking to let it close over the weekend, so that Berkshire Medical Center can quickly take it over.
Protesters have been gathered at the hospital all day since before it ceased all non-emergency operations at 10:00 A.M.
A news release sent to 22News by Coakley’s office Friday afternoon said that they have discovered that there is no funding left to maintain “safe services” at the hospital, and that critical staff and supplies are no longer available. She says that the ER should be allowed to close now, so that BMC can get access to the hospital and set it up as a satellite campus to their Pittsfield-based health system as soon as possible.
Coakley has proposed a revised order to the court, which would allow the closure.
Shortly after 12:30 Friday afternoon, protesters who received word of this, marched on the hospital. They opened a back door, walked up to the third floor, and tried to confront Northern Berkshire Healthcare President Tim Jones.
Police quickly intervened.
Jeff Hall, spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, says that the protesters agreed to return to the hospital’s cafeteria on the ground floor in exchange for a meeting with Jones. According to Hall, Jones reportedly agreed to speak with union representatives, hospital staff, and community leaders.
Police and fire officials have been at the hospital since the morning.
Several patrol cars from the North Adams Police Department and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office staged outside the hospital, in an apparent attempt to control any potentially unruly protesters.
The North Adams Police have set up their Mobile Command Center van, and firefighters were also seen walking up to the hospital’s front entrance.
Dozens of people have gathered with signs, and are chanting: “Save our hospital!”
At one point, the protesters gathered in a circle around one man, who urged the demonstrators to remain peaceful. He talked about how the North Adams Police Department has been put in a tough situation.
“They are our neighbors, not the enemy. Some of them have family and friends who work in this hospital and will be losing their jobs. They feel your pain. Please don’t put them in a bad situation,” the protester said.
Two officers, who appeared to get emotional, nodded their head in approval, and said thank you when fellow protestors chanted in approval of the police.
Coakley says that her office is going to be investigating the events that led up to the hospital shutting down.
“I am deeply troubled by the rapid closure of this hospital. The harmful impact on the employees and on the accessibility of health care for the people of these communities is unacceptable. Our office will be conducting a full investigation into the actions of the board that led to this rapid closure. Our immediate concern now is the reinstitution of emergency services at NARH as quickly as possible,” she said.