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Sudden Hospital Closure Stuns MA Community; More Coming

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, April 2, 2014

Governor Deval Patrick (D) and Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), a North Adams native, were in the community on Tuesday to fashion a way to allow Pittsfield's Berkshire Health System, which runs a 302-bed community hospital, to reopen and operate the now-shuttered emergency department at NARH.

A letter from Patrick to the community late Tuesday acknowledged that it could take 10 days before emergency services might be restored.

Meetings, church vigils, protests, legal actions, and uncertainty follow years of financial problems at NARH. But workers, many of whom toiled there for decades, didn't see this coming. Neither did members of the community. Patrick said a deal to keep the hospital open looked imminent—until the very end.

Storming the CEO's Office

A letter to the community from the hospital board on Friday stiffly acknowledges "difficult circumstances" and thanks staff. Union members reportedly tried to storm the office of CEO Timothy Jones. They were stopped by police.

Coakley says she'll press for an investigation into the NARH board and its actions. But whether the board acted properly or not is almost beside the point. This hospital has been in financial straits for years. Reports are swirling that it will soon file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

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5 comments on "Sudden Hospital Closure Stuns MA Community; More Coming"


Roger Forsberg (4/6/2014 at 7:40 PM)
[...I'm reminded of these lines from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: "'How did you go bankrupt?' Bill asked. 'Two ways,' Mike said. 'Gradually and then suddenly.'"....] This quotation provides an astute & knowledgable addition to this unhappy article in the sense that in many ways financial health is similar to human health: in both instances the 'entity', whether financial or human, cannot indefinitely continue to become sicker & sicker. Death (or bankruptcy) will eventually result.

jeff blank (4/5/2014 at 2:35 PM)
Although Medicare and Medicaid payments are less than in the private sector they are far more than reiumbursements in most of Europe. Perhaps one of those countries could come over and show us how it is done for less. The reality is that we pay far too much for healthcare in this country and places like Boston are sucking the dollars out of smaller communities and this is the consequence.. It might be a great case study into developing new in home models of care (although reopen the ER as well).. A 36 bed hospital really can't meet the quality standards it needs to.

bob sigmond (4/3/2014 at 11:22 AM)
I suggest that Partners in Boston offer to get involved to help solve the hospital shutdown crisis as it affects the health of the affected communities. Statewide leadership from the not-for-profit sector is required in this situation.