Medical imaging seen as next step in restoring Northern Berkshire health care services


NORTH ADAMS -- Officials are weighing how to restore additional medical services to Northern Berkshire after the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital and the opening of a satellite emergency department.

State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz attended Tuesday's weekly community meeting to share information on progress.

"The next step will be opening up diagnostic imaging," Polanowicz said. "We think, now that this satellite emergency facility has been established, diagnostic imaging, including mammography, is really important."

The state is working out licensing the facility for CT scans and ultrasounds. The mammography license is "a little bit out of our hands," he said, as it's a federal license.

The meeting drew roughly 70 people, a modest number compared to meetings following the hospital's closing on March 28.

Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center, opened its Satellite Emergency Facility in the former hospital on May 19.

On Tuesday, Polanowicz stressed his dedication to restoring services to the region of 40,000. But he added that health care is changing rapidly and spoke of the challenges that small hospitals face.

He said he was "very interested" in the findings of the Portland, Maine, consulting firm chosen to study the county's health needs. Stroudwater Associates will focus on what medical services are needed and sustainable in Northern Berkshire.

"We want to get this right," Polanowicz said, adding that he did not want to see another hospital enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Downing said legislators are drafting language to make BMC eligible for Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) program, state funds to make hospitals more effective. North Adams Regional Hospital, the only facility in Berkshire County eligible for the program, received $395,311 in January.

He said he also has been working with the Commonwealth Health Information Administration about finding where Northern Berkshire residents have been receiving medical care and what their needs are, "so we have as much data as possible moving forward."

To reach Edward Damon:
or (413) 663-3741 ext 224.
On Twitter: @BE_EDamon


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