Candidate Berwick Sees Chance for Health-Care Innovation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Dr. Donald Berwick, a candidate for governor, met with a small group outside of North Adams Regional Hospital on Friday morning.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Gubernatorial candidate Donald Berwick says the demise of Northern Berkshire Healthcare could provide an opportunity for health-care innovation.

"I know there's an immediate crisis but I keep thinking there's an opportunity to think about a system ... to think about what would you like to build here for the whole region," the pediatrician said. "Make it an example for the whole nation, let alone the state. I'll bet it can be done."

Meeting with a small group of people just off the campus of North Adams Regional Hospital on Friday, Berwick said he was trying to get more information about the health-care system's abrupt closure the week before.

A single-payer system, or "Medicare for all," could have prevented NBH's financial collapse, he said.

"In this case, we would have a pool of money for the state, it would be accountable, it would be transparent," Berwick said, standing next to a small podium on the windswept corner. "It would be a public trust or in public hands and we would be be able to deal with this problem from a point of view of centralized financing, which I think would make an enormous difference here."

The former administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it was imperative to fight back on the state level because the federal officials were hamstrung. He gave the example of a drug that stops premature labor that had cost a few hundred dollars a course; a loophole allowed the drug to be patented, and now costs $25,000 for Medicaid patients.

"Running Medicaid, I could not negotiate for drug prices," he said. "I was forbidden from doing that."  

Berwick said the public "needs to be aroused by this" and take charge of their own health care in a family-based support way with the appropriate professionals.


"There's all these wonderful things we could do if we think fresh," he told those gathered.

The candidate has a background in seeking alternative, innovative and efficient ways of providing health care through the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which he founded and ran for 20 years.  

"My background is in how to make a system really thrive, that's my interest and I'd love to be talking to you about that now," he said. "My whole mission has been health care in communities and finding the right way to do it."

North Berkshire isn't alone in its worries about adequate medical care, Berwick said. "There's a lot of places like this in America and they're all struggling ... not as violently as this."

Pursuing new ideas of delivering care — and whether the community needs an acute-care hospital or something completely different — would have to be done through a community platform. He urged the group research prototypes around the nation, or world, and reach out to communities that have made health care work for them.

He also offered to come back and help out with what he could.  It was a weird thing, he'd come across when meeting people in Western Mass, he said.

"As I leave the room people say 'don't forget us.' "

"I want to tell you there's not a chance I would forget you," Berwick said. "I grew up in a place a lot like this ...  You've got my attention. You've always had it."


Tags: candidates,   closure,   election 2014,   NARH,   

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'My Favorite Year': Vintage Laughs

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
I wish that I were reviewing one of the several movies about this pox upon our house that are certain to be made when the horror is deep into our rearview mirror. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, like going to the movies, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.
……………………………………………………………………………………………
 
Oh, that we had a swashbuckling hero like Peter O'Toole's Alan Swann in director Richard Benjamin's "My Favorite Year," about the early, comically innocent days of television, to swoop down just in the nick of time and save our republic.
 
Like our country, the aging, Erol Flynn-like matinee idol, after a sordid dalliance in unmitigated greed, is sorely in need of redemption. Unfortunately, almost everyone but Mark Linn-Baker's Benjy Stone, the novitiate writer on King Kaiser's variety show, a fictional paean to Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows" where Swann will be this week's guest celebrity, has lost faith in the tarnished star. Thus, to continue the plucky metaphor, you might accept that Benjy, who dropped out of college in favor of the new medium's pioneering excitement, represents America's better angels.
 
He remembers Swann from his glorious silver-screen representations, and when the show's bigwigs contemplate dismissing yesteryear's leading man, now too often drunk and tardy, Benjy volunteers to "babysit" him. The thought is that just as it's far too early to drop the curtain on our experiment in democracy, surely the still handsome headliner has some glory left in him.
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