Our Opinion: Hope in North Adams

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The city of North Adams, which was in dire need of good news, got some yesterday with the announcement that Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center, will purchase the former North Adams Regional Hospital. This would be the ideal outcome, though the particulars of bankruptcy law produce a degree of uncertainty.

The purchase agreement was announced by attorneys representing BMC and creditors of Northern Berkshire Healthcare in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield Thursday. BHS said it would spend up to $10 million in repairs and improvements to the hospital building. The county has been waiting for BHS to ride to the rescue like the cavalry since March 28, when the hospital closed on three days notice. This was never realistic given the complexity of the situation and the obligation of BHS not to put itself in jeopardy, but a month later a resolution iis in sight.

It is hoped that BMC will have the emergency room at the former NARH up and running by the middle of May. That all of North Berkshire is without emergency services is an unhealthy situation to say the least, and the long travel times combined with the loss of hospital transfer business since NARH closed is putting a tremendous strain on the three Northern Berkshire ambulance services (Eagle, April 24). For them, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Bankruptcy law requires that upon the final sale a 45-day window will be opened for bidders, and if there are bidders, a bankruptcy auction would be held. Plainly, Berkshire Health Systems, which has maintained its financial strength in the face of difficult challenges facing hospitals, and is familiar with North Berkshire, would be the ideal owner, but the process must play itself out in the months ahead.

It is possible that BMC could be running the reopened hospital in July. BMC has hired about 150 of the 500 employees who were put out of work by the closing of NARH, and while it is unrealistic to believe that all would be hired back as the hospital may not be run in the same way, it is realistic to believe that many employees will return. North Adams, at the least, has reason to be optimistic again after what has been a traumatic month.

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