Consultant’s study of Northern Berkshire health care needs nears completion
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The consultant hired to report on the health care needs of the Northern Berkshires in the wake of North Adams Regional Hospital’s closing says its work is nearing completion.
Brian Haapala, a Stroudwater Associates director, said the report’s summary and conclusions are being written. The report is widely anticipated to be a road map for the future of health care in Northern Berkshire County.
Once presented to the state, it will be a few days of study before being released to the public.
"The state is in the process of figuring out how to get the review done," Haapala said. "We’ll have it done for the state by the end of the month. Then the state would review the results and release it to the public."
Shortly after its release, the community will have an opportunity to offer input on the results.
Former employees and patients of the defunct North Adams Regional Hospital, as well as local health care providers, ambulance services and town officials, await the study to decipher what direction Berkshire Medical Center might take in restarting health care services in North County.
North Adams Regional Hospital closed abruptly on March 28, leaving more than 500 workers jobless and Northern Berkshire without local emergency care. Northern Berkshire Healthcare, the parent company of NARH, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy shortly thereafter.
As part of the bankruptcy process, Berkshire Medical Center has since bid $4 million for the hospital facilities. The closing of that sale is expected to occur in the next couple of weeks, according to hospital officials. BMC has since opened an emergency services center at the former hospital.
Mike Leary, spokesman for BMC, has said that the Stroudwater report will be a vital in deciding which health care services are developed in what many are referring to as the North County campus of BMC.
State officials concur.
"The work being done by Stroudwater Associates is an independent study that will be used by Berkshire Health System [parent company of BMC] and other health and human service organizations and community leaders in the Northern Berkshires," said Alec Loftus, spokesman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. "The objective is to assess the region’s needs, and Berkshire Health System and local leaders will use the information to plan for a strengthened system of services that can be sustained over time."
The ultimate goal is to create a health care center that is financially sustainable and can avoid the fate that the North Adams hospital faced in March.
Loftus noted that Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz and Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett strongly support access to health services in the Northern Berkshires.
"We anticipate that some of the findings will be specific to hospital services and will be very informative to Berkshire Health System and the community," he said. "We anticipate that needs related to other health and human services will be discussed in the report as well."
Loftus said that after the report is released, Health and Human Services officials are hopeful that health and human services organizations in the community "will come together to work on addressing a broad range of needs over time. The Department of Public Health can provide technical assistance to such an effort, if requested."
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