NORTH ADAMS -- Berkshire Medical Center is implementing an "emergency plan" to provide care to patients when North Adams Regional Hospital closes on Friday.

"As much as we hoped this day would not come, we are fully prepared," said Diane Kelly, BMC's chief operating officer, in a prepared statement. "BMC, like all hospitals, has a solid emergency preparedness plan in place and is prepared to care for Northern Berkshire patients and their families who are being transferred here."

BMC, the county's largest hospital, will adjust staffing at its emergency department to handle more patients. North Adams Regional's emergency department will close at 10 a.m. on Friday. The two hospitals are 21 miles apart.

At Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, about 18 1/2 miles north in Bennington, Vt., officials said they were "unclear" what the "exact effect" of NARH's closing will have.

"The loss of a community hospital is tragic for its employees, patients and families who depend upon its services, and we will do all we can to provide ongoing services by building on our existing partnerships in Northern Berkshire," said David Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, which operates BMC in Pittsfield.

Those partnerships between Berkshire Health Systems and Northern Berkshire Healthcare (the North Adams hospital's parent company) include cardiology, urology and primary care.

"We have spent many hours and resources with the [Northern Berkshire Healthcare] team with the collective goal of creating a stable and sustainable health care organization," Phelps said. "We are convinced that the NBH trustees, leadership and staff have exhausted every effort in trying to avoid this day.

"We are committed to Northern Berkshire and to working with the community to ensure access to high quality health care services in the region," Phelps said.

In a statement, Southwestern Vermont Medical said it will be "working with the providers and administrators at North Adams [Regional] Hospital to make the transition as smooth as possible."

"The hearts and prayer of us at Southern Vermont Health Care go out to the community and caregivers in Northern Berkshire County during this challenging time," its statement read. "Many of our physicians, nurses and staff call Williamstown and North Adams home."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:

tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.