Gov. Deval Patrick, with Mayor Richard Alcombright, Public Health Secretary John Polanowicz, state Sen. Benjamin Downing and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi at MCLA on Tuesday morning.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick is fast-tracking Berkshire Medical Center's application to reopen the emergency room at North Adams Regional Hospital.
Patrick spent Tuesday morning working at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with Department of Public Health Secretary John Polanowicz, Mayor Richard Alcombright, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and Berkshire Health System officials to file an application for reopening as an emergency satellite facility.
The application was signed Tuesday and the governor ushered it through the state approval process. BMC is under court order to reopen the emergency department as soon as possible.
"We've been talking through what the short-term and the long-term solutions may be. I have asked, as you may know, Berkshire Medical Center to apply for something called an SEF — a satellite emergency facilities — so we can reopen the emergency department at the hospital," Patrick said from the steps of the MCLA president's office. "They have done that and that application is being signed. We are going to see what we can do to process that as quickly as possible at the state and the federal level."
Patrick says he hopes the emergency room can at least be open in the coming days but that will depend on when the federal government gives its approval. He said his administration has been working with the federal delegation to push the approvals through on that level, too.
"What we are trying to do right now is to get at least the emergency department reopened, to continue the hospice and VNA services and to buy some time so there can be a thoughtful analysis of what should come," Patrick said.
He said Berkshire Health Systems, BMC's parent company, has already hired 75 or so former North Adams Regional Hospital employees. Patrick said he also working with the major players to transfer the licenses for VNA & Hospicecare of Northern Berkshire to return those services but those licenses are mostly handled on the federal level.
A long-term solution is not expected to bring all services back to the hospital. Which services will be sorted out with BMC as the process unfolds. Patrick suggested the emergency department, hospice, OB/GYN and ancillary imaging as possible services returning.
"There will be a medical facility in North Adams — although in a diminished form," Patrick said.
While the state is doing its part for the approvals and helping BHS reach a deal for the hospital, Patrick said the state has no plans to temporarily take over the hospital in any type of receivership. Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker had called for the state to do so last week.
"North Adams Regional Hospital is a private entity and in Massachusetts, the state doesn't run private entities, even hospitals. I was expressing frustration that before the announcement — I think it was a week ago today — that they would close at the end of the week. This team had been working closely with them on an orderly wind down and transition," he said. "It makes what we are trying to do now a little harder and more complicated because we have to go through these processes."
Patrick said he is frustrated with the sudden closure because the state believed a deal was in place for another entity to take over the hospital. Berkshire Health Systems was reportedly in conversations with Northern Berkshire Healthcare just prior to the closing but a deal fell through only days before the NBH board of trustees voted to close.
Patrick said there was nothing more the state could have done to halt the closing ahead of time.
"It's impossible to think what more could have been done. It would have been great, frankly, to have a more constructive partner in North Adams Regional Hospital," the governor said.
Meanwhile, there are hospitals in the state struggling financially, though not as much as NARH was. Patrick said whatever role the state plays in this hospital will end up setting a precedent for any future situations.
Attorney General Martha Coakley was in the city on Tuesday afternoon to meet with officials. Coakley's office filed a temporary restraining order last week to keep the emergency room open at NARH; an injunction hearing is set for Thursday.