Jack Brooks, left, and Dr. William Kober at Northern Berkshire Family Medicine's open house.View Slide Show
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire Healthcare is hoping its newly launched family practice will lure more general physicians to the area.
Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, formerly Northern Berkshire Family Practice, joined the health-care system's network of medical services last month after the practice's two doctors decided to go their own ways. Dr. William Kober has stayed on as the new practice's medical director.
"I'm very happy to be part of Northern Berkshire Healthcare," said Kober, taking a moment between greeting friends and patients at the practice's open house Thursday night. Being under the NBH umbrella will mean more resources and support for the clinic, and the expansion of services, he said. "This can only help to really enhance our top-rate primary care."
The region is underserved in family physicians, said Robert Calway, vice president of professional services and business development for NBH, so it was extremely important not only to keep the practice open but to expand it.
Photos by Tammy Daniels
Above, Robert Calway explains how e-records will allow for expansion; below, everybody visits Elizabeth Toomajian's office. Bottom, Dr. Linda Hill, left, chats with staff
"Eventually, we hope to to have six to eight clinicians working in here," he said, as dozens of patients (and potential patients) toured the 820 State Road facility. "It's important both to build our agency and to get younger physicians."
The U.S. Department of Health has designated North Berkshire as a "shortage area" for primary medical care and as a medically underserved area. And Calway said many general practitioners in the area are nearing retirement age.
Being in an "underserved area" means young doctors who settle here have may access to federal help for often-staggering medical school loans, the sheer burden of which tend to dissuade young physicians from rural — and lower-paying — positions.
The health system is already seeing some success in recruiting young doctors — it's signed contracts with several doctors in various specialties, including a new hospitalist for North Adams Regional Hospital, and is interviewing more. Fresh out of school, most won't be joining the hospital until they've received their certification next year. "It's going to be a busy six months," said hospital spokesman Paul Hopkins.
Calway also hopes the new doctors' group will provide a collegial working environment for younger doctors and nurse practitioners. The previous practice was more like two doctors sharing space, he said; the new group, headed by Dr. William Kober as medical director, will offer more opportunities for working together.
Kober, who had been with Nothern Berkshire Family Practice since its opening in 1994, agreed. "It's been difficult to recruit doctors," he said. "This will make a big difference."
Kober has been joined by Dr. Linda Hill and nurse practitioner Elizabeth Toomajian. "It's a great atmosphere here," said Hill.
To create more space for new doctors, the practice will begin electronically filing medical records, eliminating the need for its large records rooms. Electronic records are far safer and more efficient, said Calway. "They don't get misfiled."
The offices were hopping Thursday night as nearly 200 people dropped by for flu shots alone; others sat and chatted, nibbled on refreshments or crowded around Kober.
"They've been coming in droves," said the doctor wonderingly in a rare moment alone.
Nothern Berkshire Family Medicine is accepting new patients. For more information, call 413-664-4088.
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