NORTH ADAMS -- More than 100 protesters were removed from the lobby of North Adams Regional Hospital on Friday just moments before the facility was scheduled to close.
After a brief vigil in the hospital's packed cafeteria, the group moved into the lobby and said a prayer before being removed by police officers. The group was later allowed back in to the cafeteria where a vigil continued.
Northern Berkshire Healthcare said Tuesday that the hospital would close as of 10 a.m. Friday. But a ruling in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday ordered the hospital to keep the emergency room open, at least temporarily. And at mid-day, the fate of the ER was to be reviewed by a judge using new filings provided by the Attorney General's Office.
About 10 minutes before closing time, the hospital doors opened and a woman emerged holding her newborn baby, accompanied by another woman.
The crowd of protesters, which had been shouting and chanting, grew silent and parted for the women, clearing a path from the door to the driveway.
Then, the crowd erupted in applause as the women passed through the protesters and into a waiting car.
Inside the hospital, a sign was taped to a window. It read:
"We [love] our patients. We love our community and it's been our pleasure caring for you all these years."
It was signed by a group of longtime nurses.
Shortly after 10 a.m., a group of about dozen of nurses, some in tears, entered the lobby and headed for the exit. They were met by Katie Hendult, the director of acute care, also in tears.
They lined up and exchanged hugs with Hendult, one by one, before walking out the door for the last time. Again, the crowd broke into applause.