NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire Healthcare is eliminating and reducing certain management positions and supervisor hours and relocating two of its medical services to the North Adams Regional Hospital campus.
Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of Northern Berkshire and Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, which the health system acquired in 2008, will relocate and the health care system will close the 54-year-old Women's Exchange in Williamstown.
Hospital officials say the moves will save more than a $1 million from the fiscal 2012 budget.
"We are making progress in our debt restructuring effort, and expect to have good news about that in the next few months," said NBH president William Frado in a statement. "And we are looking forward to serving our community for years to come. Today's announcement is a reflection of our vigilant efforts to keep our expenses in line with our revenue, so that we can continue that service."
Two of the positions being eliminated are tied directly to NBH's debt restructuring process. Other reductions are based on realistic projections of patient volumes for the coming year, according to Frado.
"The health-care system, locally and globally, is changing quickly and we must conserve our resources and use them where our efforts benefit the community the most," he said.
One of those posts was held by Richard T. Palmisano II, who joined the health care system as president and chief executive officer in 2006. Palmisano was brought in to stem the financial bleeding and continue improvements made under Cambio Solutions, consultants hired to put the system back on track. His first few years saw some turnaround, but the economic crisis, changes in health-care payments that excerbated the hospital's fiscal health and confrontational negotiations with the unions tarnished his later tenure. Earlier this year, he was set aside to work on debt restructuring as the health system prepared for Chapter 11 filing.
NBH spokesman Paul Hopkins confirmed Palmisano's work ended last week. While it is not NBH's practice to name personnel, he said, "we did indicate that the restructuring positions were all eliminated."
"Over the summer, Mr. Palmisano transitioned to a role that focused largely on restructuring and the debt/financing issues associated with Northern Berkshire Healthcare; as such, that position is no longer necessary," Hopkins said in a statement. "NARH continues to be led by President and CEO Bill Frado."
Affected employees are being offered severance pay and support through the health-care system's employee assistance program. Other changes include eliminating a part-time lactation consultant position, eliminating an interim information technology director and an open registered nurse position, and reducing the use of "traveler," or temporary contract, personnel.
Women's Exchange consignment shop, established in 1957 to support the former Williamstown Visiting Nurse Association, will close effective Dec. 13. A full-time and two part-time positions at the Cole Avenue shop will be eliminated.
Frado said the Exchange has not been profitable for the past several years.
"This was a very difficult decision but we recognize that if we are to succeed, we have to focus on our core mission – providing health care services," he said. "We recognize the role that the Women's Exchange has played over the years, and the role that its many dedicated volunteers have played. But we simply cannot sustain it any longer, as much as we would like to."
The VNA & Hospice on Curran Highway and the medical practice on State Road near the airport are expected to move in early 2012. There are no changes expected in staffing and Dr. Irwin Steubner continues as the VNA's medical director. Patients will be notified of the changes.
However, the consolidation is expected to save more than $230,000 a year. Health system spokesman Paul Hopkins said the properties would be transferred to a trustee as part of the settlement of the Chapter 11 process. "It will be up to the trustee to determine their future," he said.
NBH employs approximately 600 people in full- and part-time positions.
Frado pointed to NBH's recent success in recruiting new physicians as evidence of its continued focus on community health services. Among new physicians recruited to the community are ageneral surgeon Dr. Louis Reines; aobstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Veronica Del Riccio; emergency physician Dr. Kenneth Patterson; radiologist Dr. David McQuade; and hospitalist Dr. Stephanie Foo.
"It's obvious from these results that Northern Berkshire is still an attractive place for doctors to work. And we are working every day to recruit new primary-care doctors, another key to our success," he said.
Updated Sunday, Nov. 6, add in information on former president Richard Palmisano.
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I can only hope that somehow donations will come in or a different building becomes available for Women's Exchange so they can continue to run. If the heads of the Northern Berkshire Health Systems donated a portion of their overpayed salaries, maybe the Exchange could continue. Unbelievable. Someone should be ashamed of themselves. I hope you get rid of the gift shop at the hospital too. You wanna talk about getting saving money. Most of us can't afford to shop there. But we sure could at the Women's Exchange!!
It's funny - the women's exchange used to have all volunteers for staff and cheap prices. Then they hired full time staff and raised their prices. Now they can't make ends meet. They are closing. Am I missing something here? It seems that the services that the people need are the ones that we lose first.
There are other very good consignment shops in Adams and North Adams. Supporting these stores helps a fellow citizen earn a living. No one likes change, but times have changed. The health care system should be concentrating its' efforts on giving good health care and not subsidizing a thrift shop,
Really? Palmisano and NBH do something that the unions and the proletariat have finally laid off some management and cut hours for others so that we can still have a hospital in Northern Berkshire, and the comments are still all about how the poor are getting screwed over?
Just shows that nobody ever is willing to think an issue through if it conflicts with their own pre-existing viewpoint. No hope for progress ever, as long as every jamoke with an opinion can never possibly there's another side of the story.
Cleary, Opinions Differ has never shopped at the hospital gift shop. It is the least inexpensive place to purchase very nice gift items. I urge everyone to check it out for holiday shopping. The Exchange had ONE paid manager. If they have hired anyone else in recent years, it is probably due to the fact that the older volunteers have died (sorry, but true) and the complete lack of younger people to volunteer time (another sad but true trend across America). A loss is a loss is a loss. Period. And Palmisano is irrelevant in this issue. He is gone now.
Palmisano is not irrelevant to this story. He was the former CEO for years, brought nothing but a bad attitude and friction to the hospital's relationship with the nurses, was demoted to that "debt restructuring" position, and has now been fired. And yet no one, including you Editor, feel this is a part of the story???????
Why is the headline focused on Woman's Exchange. The focus should be on Rick Palmisano How did he make so many bad decisions that the board approved. The purchase of NBFP only 4 years back now will be boarded up. VNA building vacant. If all these folks will fit in the existant property then why did the costly purchase happen to begin with. Severance packages seem to be what NARH does best. The last 5 years have been a non stop revolving door. That is the story that should be covered.
I've lived in this area for 30 years now and I have never seen such a group of unhappy complainers. No matter what your hospital, your government, your schools do ... you whine and complain. The decisions announced this week sound like good ones - move out of space you can't afford to occupy, and close a consignment shop that doesn't make money. But you all will find some way to complain.
For more than 35 years, the hospital trustees have sat on their hands, nodded "yes" to anything fed to them by the current crop of hospital officers. Now these "do nothing dolts" have reaped what they have sowed: their hospital in bankruptcy. A trustee's main and only real duty is to guide the facility in the public interest. Instead they coveted free meals, and wallowed in hallow praise from the then-employed Chief Executive Officer. When any occasional trustee dared to raise conduct issues, that trustee was chastised and sidelined by the CFO, and his then beholding chair, and not reappointed. The media needs to reconstruct the past 30-years of CFOs, examine their spending, salaries, and trustee inaction, and then inform the public. The air needs to be cleared in this community before the hospital really collapses and the community wonders why.
It is quite easy to retrospectively blame and find fault which accomplishes nothing. Living in the present, accepting reality and projecting a positive communal spirit is a better alternative. Mr.Palmisano's accomplishments are under appreciated. The quality care measures that he introduced and implemented go farther than any previous CEO or current member of administration or the board. Mr.Frado was appointed randomly, a figure head, pulled from retirement by the Williamstown/Williams people of the board. It is unfortunate that the public and many staff members are blinded regarding the under currents that actually make decisions. The current board and administration will see an exodus of qualified staff and physicians if they continue to operate in a patronizing yet self promoting fashion. There is a good chance that the doors of North Adams regional hospital will be closing.
Very sad news about the Women's Exchange closing. The history associated with the Exchange is rich and such a tribute to what locals used to do to support health care in the region. As for all the comments about Palmisano, the guy was trouble from day 1 and anyone who knew his history knew it. There have been very few good decisions coming from NBH and NARH since the first upper-level shake-up several years ago. I also predict the doors to the hospital, as we know it, will close sooner rather than later.