Update: Nurses union to have say in NARH bankruptcy proceedings


NORTH ADAMS -- The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the labor union that represents about 100 nurses recently laid off by the North Adams Regional Hospital, has been granted intervenor status in the hospital's bankruptcy case.

The request in Berkshire Superior Court was designed to give the union a say "in any decision regarding the hospital and the nurses," said David Schildmeier, MNA spokesman. "We need to ensure the nurses will have a voice and their rights protected in any actions going forward."

The ruling by Judge John A. Agostini came during a hearing on Thursday regarding the future of NARH. The state Attorney General's office also was in court today in a bid to make permanent last week's order calling for the establishment of a satellite BMC emergency care center at the hospital.

"Our overriding concern," said Mike Fadel, director of campaigns for MNA, "is that all services are restored as quickly as possible and that the nurses return to work in an orderly fashion. We want to be a full and helpful partner in a restoration of services there."

Northern Berkshire Healthcare, parent company of NARH, closed the hospital with three days notice last week. It filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Springfield earlier today.

The nurses union also has filed a lawsuit in Springfield seeking back pay and benefits it says the nurses are owed for a federally required 60-day closing notice the hospital failed to provide. That suit, which was filed March 27 -- the day before the hospital abruptly closed -- seeks back pay and benefits owed the nurses because the hospital did not adhere to proper notification requirements before closing, Schildmeier said.

Another union representing workers at NARH, 1199 SEIU, is exploring legal options.

"Our legal team has been fully engaged since the news of this hasty and reckless closure first broke," said Veronica Turner, executive vice president for 1199 SEIU. "We have been engaged in the court process and will continue to pursue whatever legal options will best serve caregivers, patients, and the community. Some of those options are still being assessed as we determine which actions will prove most effective in promoting accountability and fairness amidst this public health and economic crisis."

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