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Veteran nurses are back in their old posts in the endoscopy unit at BMC North.
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Fairchild explains the computerized process for cleaning endoscopy equipment. Dirty parts are passed through from the unclean room behind her.

Endoscopy Latest Department to Open at North Adams Hospital

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Carol Fairchild, director of the Crane Center, demonstrates one of the new endoscopy machines on her fingers at BMC North.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Outpatient services are slowly returning to the hospital campus — the latest the reopening of the endoscopy department.

Dr. Chi Zhang began seeing patients on Wednesday at Berkshire Medical Center's North Berkshire Campus.

"We're all happy we're here and we're able to service our patients again," said Marcia Tessier, a registered nurse who had worked in the former North Adams Regional Hospital for more than 20 years. "It's wonderful, it's really great for our community."

Officials say the transition from the Crane Center for Ambulatory Surgery in Pittsfield to North Adams was seamless.

"It wasn't such a painful first day because they knew [what to do]," Carol Fairchild, director of the Crane Center, said, adding, "there was not a glitch."

It took a lot of preparation to make sure the glitches didn't happen. Planning for the renovations to the endoscopy unit began in August, about the time BMC was closing on the assets of the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare.

BMC had shifted Zhang and four of the nurses to the Crane Center when the hospital closed in March.

"It closed on a Friday, we had their patients remaining on the schedule for Monday," Fairchild said. "There was never a break and not just for them, we did that for the surgery patients as well."

On Wednesday, the appointments were switched back to North Adams to the newly renovated unit: two procedure suites and four pre/post-op rooms.

Part of BMC's $5 million investment in upgrades on the campus, the unit was brought up to current code. It has all new equipment purchased by BMC to replace NBH's leased machines.

The reconfigured suites each have a three-room setup to prevent cross contamination between clean and dirty equipment.

Fairchild and Jackie Sciola, head of the endoscopy department, worked with stakeholders from every affected department, "the team behind the team," to get the elements in place, down to keeping the old NARH phone number and training staff on a information platform.

The volunteers from NARH are also back helping out on a daily basis. And patients who put off their screenings because they didn't want to travel to Pittsfield are being encouraged to come in.

"You can really tell the gratitude of the community, that we're working here, we've opened up services," Sciola said. "They're so grateful and they've made that known."  

BMC has already reopened imaging services — with mammography expected to be federally licensed soon — and expects orthopedic surgery to be the next service returned.

The surgical suites will have to be renovated, Fairchild said, adding "a lot of the things we had to do the first time have already been figured out."

Endoscopy is a procedure that uses a small camera to view inside the digestive track. While also used for medical conditions such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis, the procedure is overwhelmingly used for screening.

"The goal of the endoscopy is to find and remove polyps that are growing in there, because polyps, if they hang around long enough can become cancerous," Fairchild said.

The unit is open Monday through Friday from 7 to 3:30. It sees about 50 patients a week.

Ruth Blodgett, senior vice president for planning and development, said preventive medicine such as endoscopy and lab tests is proportionally larger than admissions and emergency rooms visits, making up the broad base of the health care pyramid.  

"We've always paid attention, the health system, to the health of the whole county and making sure we were doing our part to provide health to the whole county," Blodgett said. "Before we were focused in North County on specialty care and making sure we had physician specialty care ...  and now we're taking a bigger role in making sure there's access to key services starting with physician services and outpatient services. ...

"We want to return as many basic services that are possible."

It's taking time to return some of those service because of the specific needs, training and requirements, Blodgett said.

"You can't start and stop services like flipping a switch."

Seven months after the unit closed, all seven original staffers — with service ranging from 18 months to 41 years — were back doing their jobs.

"People kept coming up to me at Big Y and asking when are you going to open?" Linda Freeney, a registered nurse, said. "When they came in yesterday, everybody knew somebody."

"We're all just happy to be home," Tessier said.

Tags: BMC North,   health care,   NARH,   

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Weekend Outlook: A Festival, Fairs, and More

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
There will be a variety of events in the Berkshires this weekend including community days, apple squeeze, live musical performances, and more. 
Editors' Picks
Lenox Apple Squeeze
Various venues, Lenox 
The annual Apple Squeeze is taking over Lenox streets this Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The event features family activities, live music and performances, over 75 artisan crafts vendors, and more. 
This year, Antimony Brewing with Mama Lo's BBQ will be hosting a beer garden at the 67 Church St. parking lot. 
More information here
Annual Country Fair
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