The region's religious leaders met with Mayor Richard Alcombright on Wednesday to see how they could help the community and perhaps dampen some of the anger being felt.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright met with local religious leaders Wednesday at First Baptist to discuss aiding the community and quelling anger toward the North Adams Regional Hospital's possible closing.
The mayor explained the importance of finding a solution to the problem before figuring out whose fault the hospital's closing was.
"I am not going to expend one ounce of my energy to find out how it happened, and I am going to use all of my energy to find out a solution to move forward here," Aclombright said. "We need to figure out how to get services to the community, and I don’t think we should get deluded or defused by the idea of pointing fingers at this point."
He added that the community needs to pull together and focus on a solution.
"You can't blame people for being angry, but we have to stop the finger pointing and come together as a community."
The mayor shared concerns about a protest being planned to take place Friday at the hospital, to coincide with closing, and felt it might be proactive to have members of the religious community present to help diffuse sadness and anger.
The Rev. David Anderson of First Baptist added that a religious presence might provide comfort to angry citizens.
"I too have been wondering if some of us should be available up there as a presence Friday just in case things turn ugly," he said.
The clerics decided it would be best to wear religious garments during Friday's protest to make their presence more visible.
"A lot of you might be known to the people from your congregations, but I also think if people of faith … are present it will create a visible calming effect," Aclombright said.
Anderson added that a religious presence will especially help hospital employees who are unsure of their own futures.
"You are going to have employees walking out of there where this hospital has been their whole life for years and a lot of people decades," Anderson said. "This has been the center of their working universe, and there will be a lot of them walking out not knowing what's next."
The mayor compared the shock of the hospital closing to when Sprague Electric closed in the 1980s. He added that the negativity many people are spreading does not help matters.
"We have a lot more character than that, and we will get by and fix it," Alcombright said.
State and federal officials are looking for ways to keep if not all of the hospital functioning, at least its most essential services.
The mayor discussed holding a community meeting with representatives after the final decision on the hospital has been made so people can ask questions.