Berkshire Health Systems saves scheduled surgeries after closing of NARH


PITTSFIELD -- In the wake of North Adams Regional Hospital's closure in March, Berkshire Medical Center was able to ensure at least one service continued with little disruption.

Berkshire Health Systems, parent of BMC, was able to immediately accommodate all surgeries that had been scheduled by Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire -- which, as an independent organization, operated out of the former NARH -- at its facilities in central Berkshire County.

Although it took a tense couple of days to work out the scheduling, more than 20 orthopedic surgeries that had been scheduled at NARH before its March 28 closure have now successfully been moved to Berkshire Health Systems' operating rooms, officials said.

"It really was about two days" to accommodate the additional practice, according to Mickey Haryanto, orthopedics service line administrator at BMC, who helped orchestrate the transition. "It really was collaborative effort."

With eight full-sized operating suites at its facilities, BMC was able to accommodate Orthopedics of Northern Berkshire in addition to Berkshire Orthopedic Associates, which already used the space.

Now, for more than a month, the Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire have settled in and continue to operate out of BHS facilities.

One of the challenges of this transition, according to Dr. Suk Namkoong, was just "letting people know we were still open," and that Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire -- like many other organizations that operated out of NARH -- is an independent practice.

Namkoong said the orderly switch to BMC has been a "smooth process for the patients," and could easily have been more troublesome. Many patients may have already had prior surgery at NARH and gotten accustomed to the hospital and its staff, Namkoong said, making BMC the "new unknown."

Haryanto recalled the story of one patient who, upon hearing the news of the hospital's abrupt closure on the radio, was concerned about the knee replacement she was scheduled to have at NARH. But her doctors were able to assure her it would take place as scheduled at BMC.

Though the commute is longer, Namkoong says there are benefits to doing procedures at BMC. He's found that patients are also generally not concerned with the additional travel time, since most have already set aside time for the surgery, which is usually planned weeks in advance.

It's still unclear if Orthopedics of Northern Berkshire will, one day, end up back in Northern Berkshire.

"No decision has yet been made," Leary said, who added that BHS will wait for the state's Berkshire County health care feasibility to help it decide what services are eventually provided at the former North Adams Regional Hospital -- assuming BHS is the successful bidder on the hospital property.

Whether Orthopedics of Northern Berkshire ends up operating in North Adams or Pittsfield, Namkoong said he's comfortable.


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