North Adams hospital shutting down, 530 to lose jobs

Posted at: 03/25/2014 4:26 PM
Updated at: 03/27/2014 4:44 PM
By: WNYT Staff

North Adams Regional Hospital
North Adams Regional Hospital
Photo: Dan Levy

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – After 129 years, North Adams Regional Hospital is shutting down.

Hospital workers were informed of the decision on Tuesday. Around 530 people will lose their jobs.

The decision to shut down comes as the hospital files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It also affects the VNA & Hospice, along with the Northern Berkshire Healthcare Physicians Group.

Current patients will be transferred to other facilities through April 4. The emergency room will close on Friday.

“In the six years that I have been on the board we have investigated every possible avenue and exhausted all options as we searched for a way to continue operating the hospital and its affiliates,” said Board Chair Julia Bolton in a released statement. “Board members, management, physicians, and employees have worked together with dedication and commitment to prevent this outcome.  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.”

According to the hospital's website, they are the largest employer in the city of North Adams. The hospital is now helping employees file for unemployment benefits.

Without North Adams Regional Hospital, people will have to drive an extra half-hour to get to the next closest hospital.

Berkshire Medical Center is about 22 miles away in Pittsfield. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is actually a little closer at 18 miles away.

"The severity of what is going on caught us all totally off guard," said Diane George, a registered nurse at NARH.

Doctors, nurses, and patients say they were blind-sided by the announcement, calling it a travesty, and wondering what will happen next.

"The cost of relocation, your family uprooted, if you're in this community all your life, how do you take your family away?" Nancy Bullett, a North Adams councilwoman asked rhetorically. "Trying to find jobs here is going to be extremely difficult. This is a small town and no way can this town absorb that many people."

"Right now it's hard to get a primary care physician," said Susan Wood, a hospital employee, "Shutting the doors of the OBGYN and the surgeons, where are they going to go?"

For some people, like Bridget Herman, having a medical facility close to home can be especially reassuring.

"As a caregiver for my mother who has acute leukemia, not having a hospital nearby, if something happens, is scary," she says.

CEO Timothy Jones says there'll be a state rapid response team at the hospital this week to help staff file for unemployment benefits and health insurance. They'll also be helping with resume writing and job searches.

Many of the angry workers and residents, on Tuesday night, were hoping their elected representatives can do something to relieve the community-wide misery.