Federal judge approves BMC bid for former North Adams hospital


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- A federal judge has signed off on Berkshire Medical Center’s $4 million bid to buy the former North Adams Regional Hospital.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Henry Boroff ruled Thursday that the negotiations between Berkshire Medical Center and NARH creditors were done in good faith, allowing the parties to move forward and complete the sale. The hospital could close on the sale as early as late August, according to John Rogers, BMC general counsel and vice president.

More than 500 people were left without jobs after North Adams Regional Hospital closed abruptly on March 28 and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy shortly thereafter. Berkshire Medical Center was able to open an emergency medical center at the former NARH on May 19, and an Imaging Center in July, under a temporary lease agreement with NARH debtholders.

Under the purchase and sale agreement struck between Berkshire Medical Center and former North Adams Regional Hospital creditors on April 24, BMC will take possession of all former NARH assets.

After the negotiation, federal bankruptcy law required that a 45-day bidding window remain open, during which any other interested parties could make an offer on the NARH assets.

The former NARH’s assets were aggressively marketed to other healthcare providers and real estate developers during the bidding period, according to D. Ethan Jeffrey, counsel to court-appointed Bankruptcy Trustee Harold Murphy. In remarks to Boroff, Jeffrey said the trustee had advertised the property in a number of local publications and hired a real estate firm, DJM Real Estate, to market it to potential buyers.

"It was vigorously marketed," Jeffrey said.

Despite a "number of interested parties," Berkshire Medical Center’s $4 million offer was the only one submitted before the bidding window closed, according to Jeffrey.

"Nothing went beyond kicking the tires, so to speak," Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey went on to say that a "sale was the only option here," and that BMC was the "obvious buyer."

An attorney for Wells Fargo, which was owed $30 million by NARH, did not object to the sale on Thursday. A 15-day appeal period, has begun, if any party objects to the sale.

"Now it moves forward like a typical real estate agreement," Rogers told reporters after the hearing.

Rogers reiterated that BMC will await the results of a healthcare consultant Stroudwater Associates study on Northern Berkshire health care needs before deciding what additional services will be brought to North Adams. The complete findings are expected in late August or early September, Rogers said.

Though the sale is not final, Thursday’s events marked progress for BMC.

"[It] certainly takes a level of uncertainty out of the transaction," Rogers said.


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