The question in the community to the north of us is, can you treat the people of a city of 14,000 and the surrounding seven or eight towns like the customers of a mom and pop used furniture store?
I don’t think so. Regular businesses may be able to close with a few days notice. ( "Everything must go! Make us an offer!"). But I believe the people that run North Adams Regional Hospital, the principal health care facility and a bedrock of Northern Berkshire for more than a century, have a bit more accountability. Or they should anyway.
I get the financial part of this. I get that hospital stays are much shorter. When my mother had my youngest sister, they were both at North Adams Regional Hospital for more than a week. Now, unless there are complications from a birth, the stay is about two days.
Medicaid reimbursements are rarely, if ever, 100 percent reimbursements. Procedures that used to be costly and intricate, such as knee surgery, are outpatient procedures now. And, of course, there is a significant percentage of the population that has no insurance (despite MassHealth) that must be served anyway.
And, smaller hospitals across the country are struggling.
None of those factors, however, excuse what the Board of Trustees of this hospital have done. The situation may, as the state brings legal pressure to bear, change in the next few days. And maybe this whole unsavory mess will eventually straighten out and become at least tolerable.
But you are either a part of this community or you are not. You are either in the foxhole or you are a mile away, watching. There really is no in between.
I’m sure it’s no fun reading various schmoes pontificate in the newspaper and on television about how you and the rest of the board should have done this, or should have done that.
And if it’s tough to take, well, you brought it on, my friends.
I’ve been researching hospital closures across the country. None that I found shut their doors this fast. You can’t just throw up your collective hands and decide it’s hopeless. As the stewards of a hospital, you have to at least give the community some notice. Not four days.
This situation might have been a bit more acceptable had there been any real explanation of why this facility is closing so precipitously. Lacking one, I can only assume that there really is no explanation.
This is a hospital. Sick people are vulnerable people. I have pondered how I would have reacted had BMC announced, on the Monday after my multiple leg surgeries, that it was closing its doors in a few days.
I knew I had weeks and months of recovery ahead. It frightens me very much to think that, had my health care facility had shut its doors, I would have to face that, or figure out an alternative strategy, on my own.
North Adams is a very good community. My father’s people all came from there and I have good friends there still. North Adams didn’t deserve the amount of disrespect they have had to endure. Shame on the people who decided this.
To reach Derek Gentile:
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On Twitter: @DerekGentile