Former North Adams Regional Hospital union employees get checks from settlement


NORTH ADAMS — The unionized employees of North Adams Regional Hospital have started receiving checks from a $370,000 labor settlement over the hospital's abrupt shutdown in March 2014.

Ninety-nine former Massachusetts Nurses Association members have each received a check for $650, according to Joe Markman, a union spokesman. Next month, they'll get another check for the same amount.

Payments to the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East members have been sent, but check amounts vary depending on various employment factors.

Wracked by debt, Northern Berkshire Healthcare declared bankruptcy and shut North Adams Regional, a visiting nurses unit and three physician practices with three days notice. About 530 employees were put out of work.

The National Labor Relations Board, the MNA and 1199SEIU filed claims that the abrupt closing violated federal labor regulations and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Federal laws require employers with 100 or more workers to provide 60-day notice of plant closings and mass layoffs and to negotiate in good faith with unions over terminations.

"During our settlement of litigation with Wells Fargo, we were able to free up some money to get those claims paid," said Harold Murphy, the Boston-based attorney serving as the bankruptcy trustee.

The MNA is receiving $209,598 from the settlements, and the 1199SEIU is getting $160,968, according to figures supplied by Jeff Hall, spokesman for 1199SEIU.

Wells Fargo was a major Northern Berkshire Healthcare creditor. As part of the bankruptcy process, Wells Fargo has received $6.4 million of the $33.9 million owed it by the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare.

All other secured debts have been paid in full, Murphy said.

Those included $430,000 to Adams Community Bank, $593,000 to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., and $147,000 to the city of North Adams for property taxes, water and sewer fees, and other charges.

Murphy succeeded in securing more than $10 million against the debt through the sale of the hospital building and other assets, as well as the collection of bills owed the hospital by health insurance providers and others.

More is still to be collected, Murphy said.

Later this year, unsecured debt claims will start to be paid, but at less than 100 percent of their worth, according to Murphy.

The bankruptcy case could be finalized by the end of the year, he said.

The hospital, which served about 40,000 people in Northern Berkshire County, Vermont and New York, closed on March 28, 2014, leaving employees little time to prepare.

In August 2014, Berkshire Medical Center stepped in and acquired the facility and its assets for $4 million. Since then, after heavy renovation, the BMC North Campus has been steadily re-established with several outpatient services, laboratory services, and more beds for emergency patients.


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