Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the abrupt closure of North Adams Regional Hospital.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Attorney General Martha Coakley will press an investigation into the sudden closure of North Adams Regional Hospital.
"Our office is very interested in how this happened," the attorney general said during a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. "When we see something that has failed essentially like this, we want to know why and we will have to determine what consequences, if any."
Northern Berkshire Healthcare announced last Tuesday it would close the hospital's doors and discontinue its affiliated health care services.
Coakley, seated with former classmates Mayor Richard Alcombright and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, and with state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, said her office and the Department of Public Health were given only days' notice of the closure, rather than the 90 days as required by regulations.
Her statement confirmed that state officials were caught off-guard by the decision; Gov. Deval Patrick earlier in the day said he was "frustrated" by the actions of NBH's board of trustees because officials had believed a deal to transition services was about to take place.
Coakley said finances sometimes overwhelm charitable organizations, but it was incumbent upon her office to determine what happened to prevent it from happening to similar health systems and communities.
But, she said, even if the investigation determines the board's action violated state policies, "there are no particular teeth in those regulations."
Asked if her office is focusing on the lack of enforcement, she responded: "It will be now."
"But I will say to you today: Our office is going to work with the board and make sure we determine what happened ... we want to avoid this for other communities."
Representatives from the Massachusetts Nurses Association and 1199SEIU met with Coakley prior to the press conference. Cindy Bird of 1199SEIU said the attorney general had wanted to know how the closure had affected workers and the community.
"I feel positive, I have hope listening to her," Bird said. "I feel good that they were duped, too, and so they're going to work just as hard to get this fixed and having this be her hometown, she knows.
"I think she's going to work even harder."
Coakley's office filed a restraining order last week, prior to an injunction hearing this week, to prevent the hospital's emergency room from closing but it had to be amended once it was learned much of critical services had been closed by Wednesday night, she said.
She said she was not prepared to respond to rumors that the health system may file Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Monday. The temporary restraining order issued on Friday specifically speaks to NBH maintaining records, furniture, equipment and other materials necessary to operate the Emergency Department and other necessary functions.
The governor signed off on Berkshire Medical Center's license to operate the facility on Tuesday but federal approvals are required first. Patrick said U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal had been asked to help expedite the matter.
Coakley hoped the emergency room could open within a week to 10 days but could not be certain of the timing.
She said it was critical across the state that residents had accessible, affordable and quality health care.
"I think we feel that we want a sustainable organization here to meet the needs," she said. "It's not going to happen overnight but I feel today that we are in a much better path to build that.
"I feel fairly confident that today, it's not whether we are going to do this it's how we are gong to do this."