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Veteran OR nurse Tara Garcia is glad to be 'home' in North Adams again.
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Carol Fairchild in a newly upgraded operating room.
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Fairchild explains the functions of the digital tower in the OR.
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CSR tech Jaime Ryll, right, and Steris Corp. salesman Vincent Callahan in the clean service area.
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The nurses area.
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A shoulder repair tool kit.

BMC North Reopens Operating Rooms

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Carol Fairchild, director of the Crane Center, explains some of the changes at the newly relicensed operating rooms in North Adams.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The operating rooms at the former hospital are being put back into use after a nearly $1 million upgrade.

Two of the four surgical suites at the Northern Berkshire Campus of Berkshire Medical Center will begin orthopedic outpatient surgeries on Monday.

"It's a relief, it's exciting and I think people are happy," said Dr. Jonathan Cluett. "We're able to reinvigorate some energy into this resource and, ultimately, back into the community."

Cluett and his colleagues Drs. James R. Whittum and Suk Namkoong of Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire have been doing operations at the Berkshire Medical and its Crane Center since the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital last March.

Beginning Monday, they will be able to offer outpatient procedures such as treatments for carpal tunnel, torn rotator cuffs, and joint repairs three days a week. Full joint replacements will be still be done at BMC because they require a hospital.

"The improvements that have been done by BHS are incredible," Cluett said. "They have really made this a first-class facility ... this is really awesome what's up here."

The opening of the operating rooms is the latest medical service to be restored to the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare campus.

Renovations began in November, said Carol Fairchild, director of the Crane Ambulatory Surgical Center, and was licensed on Thursday.

"We bought everything new," she said. "We wanted to open with all up-to-date equipment and supplies."

New equipment included LED Skytron operating lights that are not only energy-efficient but don't throw shadows or heat. A $190,000 computer tower offers a high-definition view of the procedure and controls for the tools, all while recording the surgery.

A software package averages out how much time each doctor takes for a procedure to create the OR schedule. Other systems track inventory and the sterilization process.

Some $872,000 total was invested in updated equipment and space modifications to create a central sterilization room. BMC, which purchased the facility in August, had planned to invest $6 million in total in the building.

Fairchild it took a team of 40 representing all aspects of the services — from equipment to phones to housekeeping to architects — to bring the project to fruition.

"It's very, very complex," she said. "This is the 13th or 14th [surgical center] I've opened and it only gets more complicated as time goes on."

Permit applications were submitted in December and Fairchild said the state was very responsive despite being hampered by weather and staffing.  

"They were really going above and beyond," she said.

All four operating rooms are licensed but only Rooms 1 & 2 and a smaller recovery area will open for the moment. Urology is expected to resume use of the suites in the coming months.

"We had to license the whole area and prepare the whole area," said Fairchild.

Registered nurse Tara Garcia estimated that the OR was about 95 percent the same - but a lot better.

"From my standpoint, it looks very familiar but it feels wonderfully different and new," she said. "It's always been really beautiful and I'm very glad it's being utilized again.

"I didn't think it could look better than it did before."

Garcia was two months shy of her 30th anniversary at NARH when it abruptly closed. A few weeks later she was working per diem at BMC. She liked it, but is happy to be back.

Joining her are eight other nurses and technicians, all but one of whom had worked in the OR prior to its closure.

Surgical tools ready for cleaning. The new cleaning center in the OR has several types of cleaning processes, including water pressure and steam, and an inventory system.

BMC spokesman Michael Leary said about 250 former Northern Berkshire Healthcare employees have been hired. The hospital's closure cost in excess of 500 full and part-time jobs.

Since then BMC has opened an emergency satellite facility, restored imaging services, diagnostics and endoscopy. Some ancillary jobs such as in maintenance, housekeeping and cafeteria have also returned.

Having familiar faces and spaces can help ease "chaotic and confusing and frightening" experiences for patients into something positive.

"I think what's going to make it easier is having the right equipment here ... everything is up to the highest standards," Cluett said.

"What I think will make it a positive experience, is having patients feel comfortable and empowered in taking responsibility for their care."

Tags: BMC North,   NARH,   surgery,   

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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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