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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

State Grants NARH $2 Mil; BMC $300K; Children's Health Program; $100K

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, September 14, 2006

North Adams Regional Hospital has been awarded a $2 million state grant. The Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and the Community Health Program of the Berkshires/Children's Health Program Inc. of Great Barrington also received grant awards.
Two Berkshire region hospitals are sharing part of $38 million in state competitive grant awards.

The North Adams Regional Hospital was awarded $2 million while the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield was awarded $300,000.

A Great Barrington-based Community Health Program of the Berkshires/Children's Health Program, Inc. was also awarded a $100,000 grant through the state grant process.

"Good News"

The Sept. 14 announcement came from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

NARH Community Relations Director Paul Hopkins termed the announcement "good news."

Officials at BMC and at the Children's Health Program could not be reached for comment on the awards during the late afternoon on Sept. 14.

NARH Vice-president of External Affairs Maria Basescu said the revenues are earmarked for "technological capital investment," more specifically, purchase of digital x-ray equipment and storage equipment.

"[The purchases] are very much connected to the e-health intiative," Basescu said, and noted that the NARH participation in an e-health record pilot program was emphasized in the grant application.

The pilot program is being funded by $50 million provided by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts and handled by the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

The Northern Berkshire region was selected in 2005 as one of three e-health record pilot sites; last month, the Adams Internists physicians group became the first Northern Berkshire entity to offer patients the chance to create an e-health record destined for sharing with other Northern Berkshire health care providers.

"I think that the state recognizes that Massachusetts has an opportunity to be a real leader in health care and these pilot programs offer those opportunities," she said. " NARH is not only getting a grant but is getting one of the larger amounts. We had to be very specific [in the application] and we delineated what we wanted the money for."

Digital X-rays Reduce Costs, Said Basescu

Digital x-rays eliminate the cost of x-ray film and generate savings, she said. Digital images are also more efficient than traditional x-ray films and can be provided to physicians more easily than current films are transported, she said.

"It is undeniably a savings," Basescu said.

Information available at websites hosted by several digital x-ray equipment manufacturers promote numerous benefits of the devices.

According to information at a General Electric www.gehealthcare.com web site, costs are reduced because of "dwindling requirements for film processing equipment, chemicals and archiving space, not to mention the labor now required for managing these activities."

The site also notes that digital x-rays take less time than film imaging, so patient volume can be increased, which in turn generates more revenue for health care institutions, or exam space may be reduced because of the increased exam speed, which may also reduce costs.

Another manufacturer, known as Nanocrystal Imaging Corporation, touts the reduced storage needs. Additionally, digital images may be enlarged and "suspicious" areas may be more easily scrutinized, digital images may be shared with other physicians more quickly, or sent easily to insurance companies "for reimbursement purposes." The www.nanocrystals.com site states that environmental issues surrounding the disposal of film and associated chemicals are avoided through digital imaging.

Grant revenues are expected to be awarded to the various institutions in October, Basescu said.

The NARH grant application was put together quite quickly, Basescu said.

Hospital officials received information about the grant in August and had two weeks to assemble information and submit the application, she said.

Grant awards were provided through an Essential Community Provider Trust Fund administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Money was available to acute care hospitals, such as NARH and BMC, as well as non-acute care hospitals and community health centers within the state.

Acute care hospitals received a total $28.8 million, community health care centers shared a total $8.2 million, and a non-acute care hospital, the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston was awarded $1 million to provide a psychiatric and rehabilitation unit and expand children's dental services. The largest $3.25 million grant was awarded to the Holyoke Medical Center.

Factors considered during the award process included the financial situation of the competing entities and whether an entity was a sole health care provider within a community, according to information provided by the Department of Health and Human services.

"As we enter the critical implementation phase of health care reform, we're counting on these providers more than ever to deliver high quality services at affordable prices," said HHS Secretary Timothy Murphy.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.


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