NORTH ADAMS -- North Adams Regional Hospital, the Northern Berkshire Visiting Nurses Association & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, and three medical practices will close on Friday, leaving 530 full- and part-time employees without jobs and thousands of patients with no immediate health care answers.
Trustees of the parent company, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, approved the resolution.
As explanation, the company statement said, "The resolution was approved in response to NBH's worsening financial status." The hospital had emerged from bankruptcy in June 2012, but has been on rocky financial footing since.
The news was announced to employees on Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokesman.
"In the six years that I have been on the board, we have investigated every possible avenue and exhausted all options as we searched for a way to continue operating the hospital and its affiliates," said Julia Bolton, chairwoman of the trustees, in a statement.
"Board members, management, physicians, and employees have worked together with dedication and commitment to prevent this outcome. But now, given our finances and the daunting challenges that small rural community hospitals are facing in this healthcare environment, we can no longer continue."
Employees will be laid off and the company said it will provide assistance in filing for unemployment benefits.
The Northern Berkshire Healthcare Physicians Group, which is operated by Northern Berkshire Healthcare, includes Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, Northern Berkshire OB/GYN, and Northern Berkshire General Surgery, all in North Adams.
"The implications of this decision are far-reaching, but our primary concern is for our patients," said Timothy Jones, the president and CEO. "We are working tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition to other care providers including other hospitals in the region."
The hospital's Emergency Department will close at 10 a.m. on Friday. Residents may seek emergency care at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt.
Patients of Northern Berkshire Family Medicine and the VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire will be transitioned to other practices and agencies through Friday, April 4.
"North Adams Regional Hospital opened 129 years ago in 1885, and as an institution we have served the people of this area with dedication and pride," Jones said. "Many of those who work here have served our patients for decades, and today's news is a shock. We wish it could be different."
According to Stephen Sheppard, economics professor at Williams College, the result of longer travel time for emergency treatment will likely result in an increased mortality rate.
He noted he and some students are in the midst of conducting a study on the affect of treatment location to mortaility rates.
"We find that an increase in distance does harm health and there is increased risk" of mortality, he said.
He also checked on the economic data, and determined that the loss of the hospital would "impose a hit on the Northern Berkshire economy of $96.4 million annually, and result in the loss of another 230 jobs in other areas."
David Schildmeir, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said there is some question if the company had followed state regulations regarding the closing of hospitals.
"The board of trustees might want to walk away, but the nurses who care for the patients don't and we're committed to do whatever we can to save the hospital or at least insure a safe transition," he said.
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