The only hospital in the northern Berkshires is abruptly closing its doors this Friday. That’s the word from the North Adams Regional Hospital.
The hospital ‘s parent company, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, says after 129 years, it has to shut down.
“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,” board chair Julia Bolton said in a statement. “But given our finances and the daunting challenges that small rural community hospitals are facing in this healthcare environment, we can no longer continue.”
The statement says the hospital, its hospice and related offices will close Friday. Its 530 employees will receive layoff notices and assistance in filing for unemployment.
The announcement shocked the hospital’s nurses, says David Schildmeier of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
“In any case, under any circumstances, for any responsible human being to close a community hospital with three days notice is just unacceptable,” Schildmeier says.
The hospital company’s president and CEO, Timothy Jones, said in the statement that the primary concern is for the residents.
“We are working tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition to other care providers including other hospitals in the region,” Jones said.
Northern Berkshire said its emergency room will close at 10 a.m. on Friday, and suggested patients seek urgent care at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., or at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vermont. Both are about 20 miles away.
The nurses union is questioning the legality for such a quick closing and is vowing to fight it. And the state senator for the region, Democrat Ben Downing, promised to try to find a solution.
“The Northern Berkshires need a hospital,” Downing said in a statement. “I firmly believe this could have and should have been avoided. In the coming days, I will do everything in my power to ensure access to critical healthcare services, to support the community and the workers and to help answer the many questions we all have.”
A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Public Health had no comment Tuesday evening.