Updated: 05/19/2014 7:46 PM
Created: 05/19/2014 9:16 AM WNYT.com
By: Steve Flamisch
NORTH ADAMS – Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) opened a satellite emergency facility inside the former North Adams Regional Hospital on Monday, giving the city its first functioning emergency room since the hospital closed on March 28.
The 24/7 facility is capable of handling all critical and non-critical care cases, though most stroke victims will be transported directly to the main BMC campus in Pittsfield, spokesman Michael Leary said. Everyone else will be treated here.
"Depending on the severity of the injury or illness of the person presenting, the people will be treated and discharged from this facility," Leary said. Patients with a severe injury or illness will be stabilized here then transferred to an inpatient hospital.
Berkshire Health Systems, the parent of BMC, does not own the property, according to court documents. It is operating the satellite emergency facility, for a minimum of one year, under an agreement reached last month in federal bankruptcy court in Springfield.
"We’re still in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings," Leary said. "Berkshire Medical Center is the bidder on the overall property, but we’re in a process where some other organization has the right, legally, to bid on the property over the next 45 days or so."
If BMC is the winning bidder – it has offered to pay $4 million – there is no guarantee it will restore inpatient beds, surgical services, or anything else. There are "no specific plans" for the building until BMC completes a study of health care needs in the community, Leary said.
More than 500 people lost their job when North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH) closed. BMC now employs about 150 people who worked for NARH or its affiliated physicians’ groups, hospice, and visiting nurse service, Leary said.
Leary said he did not know how many former NARH employees are staffing the satellite emergency facility. Robbin Simonetti, co-chair of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said she believes there are 12 full-time nurses and 4 per diem nurses. She did not know about other staff.
Simonetti, a day surgery nurse, has not been rehired. But she and other members of the nurses union gathered in the parking lot on Monday to celebrate the noon opening of the satellite emergency facility. She called it a "good day" for the 40,000 people the hospital once served.
"It's something very important for the community," Simonetti said. "We have alot of elderly community members, and it's very important that they have emergency services. And to have to drive forty minutes or an hour away in either direction is not good."
Simonetti said she is aware of at least one person who suffered a heart attack in the North Adams area, and required CPR for the entire ambulance ride to Pittsfield. She did not know the patient’s outcome, but she said she is not aware of any fatalities that resulted from the hospital’s closure.
NARH filed for bankruptcy shortly after closing its doors on March 28. The nurses union has said the hospital was profitable, and that its financial troubles and eventual closure stemmed from failed real estate investments.