Bankruptcy attorney: Negotiations underway for BMC parent to acquire NARH facility


SPRINGFIELD -- Negotiations between the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center and the creditors of the former North Adams Regional Hospital now center on an acquisition of the facility and have reached as far as formal, written offers.

Negotiations between the parties continued through Wednesday morning at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield, but have yet to bear fruit.

During a status conference on the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing of Northern Berkshire Healthcare, the parent company of North Adams Regional Hospital, bankruptcy trustee Harold Murphy said the parties have "talked about an acquisition of all hospital assets," but have not come to agreement on the terms. Attorneys for BMC parent Berkshire Health Systems, Northern Berkshire Healthcare bond holders, and the commonwealth will reconvene on April 24 to continue discussions.

North Adams Regional Hospital closed abruptly last month, leaving more than 500 full- and part-time workers out of work. North County has been without emergency services since then.

Murphy, appointed to oversee the bankruptcy proceedings, told Judge Henry Boroff that there have been "substantial discussions" between Berkshire Health Systems and the bondholders. These included an exchange of "terms sheets" that address the long- and short-term needs of the community, Murphy said.

Such a deal could include a short-term agreement allowing occupancy of the hospital facility while long-term negotiations continue, Murphy said.

"There are open issues that are not resolved," said Paul Carey, an attorney for Berkshire Health Systems, told Boroff.

Carey said that Berkshire Health Systems submitted a written offer to bond holders -- the largest of which is Wells Fargo at more than $30 million -- last week, but talks fell through.

Robert Ross, an attorney representing the commonwealth, provided Boroff with an update on the federal permitting process for an emergency room license and other "ancillary services."

"There are steps that the CMS [Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] still insist [on]," Ross said.

Before the license is granted, Ross said, CMS needs "some sort of agreement for use of the space" to be in place," as well as a roughly two-day safety review that would take place shortly before the emergency department reopens.

Boroff said that he was pleased with the progress of the discussions, but disappointed in the progress of the licensing, saying it could even have an impact and be "of great concern" to the bankruptcy proceedings.

"The emergency services of this community need to be addressed immediately," he said.

Boroff went as far as to tell the attorneys "if there beuraucratic obstacles, I want to know the name" of the person responsible, "so if there is a tragedy, I know where to point the finger."


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