NORTH ADAMS — Berkshire Medical Center is adding two observation beds to its Satellite Emergency Facility, which could potentially help avoid the need for inpatient care in some cases.
The additional beds will be used for monitoring patients with potentially serious illnesses for 12 to 16 hours before deciding whether to discharge or transfer them to Pittsfield, according to a statement issued by Berkshire Health Systems, the parent of Berkshire Medical Center.
The two new beds will only be used for certain conditions, specifically those with low-risk chest pain and patients who have either passed out or come close to passing out, according to BMC. The emergency department doctor will decide whether or not to keep the patient in North Adams for observation, based on the severity of the condition and the resources of the North Adams facility.
"This is really going to be a decision based on the doctors taking care of them," said Dr. Ronald Hayden, medical director of the facility and chairman of emergency medicine at BMC.
The new beds are expected to mitigate the need to transfer about 15 patients per month to Berkshire Medical Center's main campus in Pittsfield, often by ambulance. As the observation program eventually expands to include ailments such as asthma, emphysema and diarrhea, some 20 to 25 patients per month could be spared the hassle of transferring to Pittsfield.
"The addition of observation beds in the North Adams Satellite Emergency Facility will provide the appropriate patients and their emergency providers with additional time for testing and treatment at a level that does not require an inpatient admission to a hospital," Hayden said.
Transferring can cause patients and their families headaches, Hayden noted, because they have to find transportation back up north when they've completed treatment. It can also be taxing on the ambulance services that have to transport the patients.
"For the most part, most of these folks would rather stay in their community," Hayden said.
The new addition to emergency services represents another expansion of health care services in the Northern Berkshires following the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital in 2014.
Since taking ownership of the former NARH facility on Hospital Avenue later that year, Berkshire Medical Center has begun outpatient imaging and mammography, endoscopy, outpatient orthopedic, urologic and gynecologic surgeries, and laboratory services and more, according to its statement. Last year, it also opened the Neighborhood for Health.