Democratic candidate for attorney general Maura Healey speaks with hospital advocates at the VFW on Saturday, later promising she would share information with the community on the progress of an investigation of its closure if elected.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Attorney general candidate Maura Healey has promised to follow through if elected on issues raised by the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital.
"I'm absolutely committed to be an advocate on this issue to fight for just that," she said. "I talked about it as a civil rights issue."
The Democrat took a detour from heavy campaigning during this last few days before the election to meet with more than two dozen activists and residents about the region's health care issues.
"I am with you on so many fronts on this," she said Saturday at the Veterans for Foreign Wars post. "I have concerns about the way that this all unfolded."
The hospital closed in late March with the bankruptcy of Northern Berkshire Healthcare. Current Attorney General Martha Coakley's attempt to prevent the emergency room from closing was pre-empted by the bankruptcy. Since then, her office was involved in the court proceedings that led to NBH's assets being acquired by Berkshire Health Systems and its reopening emergency services, and is conducting an investigation into the hospital's abrupt closure.
Healey, whose mother and other close family members were nurses, said she believed access to health care as well as to education, jobs and safe housing were basic civil rights.
"It's what I deeply believe in and what I'll fight for as your attorney general," Healey told the group, adding, "It bothers me deeply that people in this community would not have access to what I believe is a basic civil right."
The attorney general's office works across a broad range of issues, from non-profits to fair labor laws, with partner agencies, all of which Healey said she would work with on behalf of citizens, particularly in the areas of prescription drug abuse, disability rights and health care access and regional disparities.
In response to questions, she said she would review the NBH investigation, asking the group to understand she was not privy to its progress having resigned last year from her post in the AG's office so she could campaign for it.
"It's really really important there is transparency and one of the failings here is there wasn't transparency," Healey said.
The former pro basketball player grew up in rural New Hampshire, graduated from Harvard and received her law degree from Northeastern University.
After working as a Middlesex County prosecutor and in private law, she joined the attorney general's office as chief of the civil rights division, later overseeing public protection and business and labor.
Healey faces off against Republican John B. Miller on Tuesday. She encouraged those attending to vote for Martha Coakley for governor as well as for her.
"I think it's important who our next governor is. It's important for not only this area but for the state," saying she'd come into the AG's office on the heels of a Republican-led agencies in 2007.
"If you want to talk about cuts, if you want to talk about loss of services and you want to talk about decisions that were made by a governor and state agencices, they gutted the heart of health care and well-being of communities and families," she said. "That's what we'll go to and I firmly believe that."
Healey also promised to be back in the Berkshires should she become the next attorney general.
"If elected, when elected, I will be back out here often because this is what it means to be the people's lawyer, this is what it means to be the state's attorney general."
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The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
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