NARH closing hurts more than just the hospital
NORTH ADAMS -- As hard as it may be to fathom, the closing pains associated with the loss of the hospital go further than the sudden elimination of 530 jobs.
Along with employees who lost their jobs, there have been others -- not employees of the hospital but who still worked there every day -- who have suddenly found themselves without a base of operation and/or without their primary source of income.
One example is Williamstown Anes thesia Associates. Established 1993 and closed since the hospital closed March 28, it was the only source of anesthesiology at NARH, according to Carolyn Henderson, registered nurse and em ployee of the firm.
Another is the nonprofit dedicated to counseling new moms in nursing their new babies, Berkshire Nursing Families, whose base of operations was the maternity ward at NARH, up until the closing.
Williamstown Anesthesia Associates, working under contract with Northern Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of NARH, employed four, in cluding two physicians/anesthesiologists.
"People don't realize the hospital closing left us without jobs," Henderson said.
Since the closing, her husband, Dr. Robert Micley, has had to head to Springfield to find part-time work as an anesthesiologist at Mercy Hos pital. He stays there during the week, coming home on weekends when he can.
The other anesthesiologist, Dr. David Wilson, is still considering his options.
"It feels like I'm drifting," Wilson said. "It's like I should be having fun with all this free time, but I'm sad."
For nearly two decades, the doctors were on call to provide scheduled and emergency anesthesiology -- for the last three months without being paid, Henderson noted.
And suddenly, nothing.
"It was like the rug got pulled right out from under us," Henderson said. "There was nothing for us to do and nowhere to go because all the other local hospitals are fully staffed."
But it's not just the four employees of the firm that are feeling the pain.
Williamstown Anesthesia As so ciates offered epideral ster oid pain management to other medical practices around the North County area for chronic and emergency pain symptoms. With a one- or two-day wait, it was much more convenient for local patients, who now have a painful waiting period of several weeks and a trip to Pittsfield for similar treatments.
Like many of the caregivers who lost their jobs, Wilson is less concerned about his own plight than those of his former patients.
"Although I'm bummed without a job, I'm more worried about the people of North Adams," he said. "It's a safety issue for them. There are some conditions where seconds can make the difference -- so transportation time to an emergency center matters a lot."
For Berkshire Nursing Fam ilies, the closing meant a physical separation from the environment where they are needed most -- the place where new moms start nursing their babies for the first time.
According to Rosalie Gir ard, who worked on the maternity floor as a lactation consultant for 15 years at NARH, as a result of the closing Berkshire Nursing Families has moved their base of operations to the Blackinton Center at 1288 Massachusetts Ave. in North Adams.
"We're still here," Girard said. "People are going to need to know we're still here for them."
When they worked at the hospital, that was a source of most of their funding. But now they'll have pay rent and other costs of running an office in a region where the percentage of mothers who breast feed is higher than both the state and national average, according to Girard.
"Now we're going to have to fund 100 percent of the operation somehow," Girard noted. "We have costs we've never had before."
In addition, the seven em poyees will have to spend time raising funds to keep operating.
"We're going to have to start fundraising, and whatever else we have to do to keep doing what we love to do," Girard said.
For more information about Berkshire Nursing Families: (413) 346-4532 or www.berkshirenursingfamilies.org.
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