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Hospital officials and elected leaders cut the ribbon on the newly reopened North Adams Regional Hospital.
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U.S Rep. Richie Neal, left, and former state Rep. Dan Bosley. Neal was instrumental in getting a change to critical access regulations that allowed NARH to qualify.
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Kate Walsh, secretary of the health and human services, says critical access flexibility will keep the 'standing many, many years from now.'
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State Rep. John Barrett III says the hospital's closure got him back into politics.
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North Adams Regional Reopens With Ribbon-Cutting Celebration

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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BHS President and CEO Darlene Rodowicz welcomes the gathering to the celebration of the hospital's reopening 10 years to the day it closed. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The joyful celebration on Thursday at North Adams Regional Hospital was a far cry from the scene 10 years ago when protests and tears marked the facility's closing
 
Hospital officials, local leaders, medical staff, residents and elected officials gathered under a tent on the campus to mark the efforts over the past decade to restore NARH and cut the ribbon officially reopening the 136-year-old medical center. 
 
"This hospital under previous ownership closed its doors. It was a day that was full of tears, anger and fear in the Northern Berkshire community about where and how residents would be able to receive what should be a fundamental right for everyone — access to health care," said Darlene Rodowicz, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems. 
 
"Today the historic opportunity to enhance the health and wellness of Northern Berkshire community is here. And we've been waiting for this moment for 10 years. It is the key to keeping in line with our strategic plan which is to increase access and support coordinated county wide system of care." 
 
Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, under the BHS umbrella, purchased the campus and affiliated systems when Northern Berkshire Healthcare declared bankruptcy and closed on March 28, 2014. NBH had been beset by falling admissions, reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, and investments that had gone sour leaving it more than $30 million in debt. 
 
BMC was able to reopen the ER as an emergency satellite facility and slowly restored and enhanced medical services including outpatient surgery, imaging, dialysis, pharmacy and physician services. 
 
But it would take a slight tweak in the U.S. Health and Human Services' regulations — thank to U.S. Rep. Richie Neal — to bring back inpatient beds and resurrect North Adams Regional Hospital 
 
"I take great satisfaction from the accomplishment that you all advocated for with great vigor a return to a full-service critical access hospital," said the congressman. "I call attention to that on occasions like this because most of the stories overwhelmingly across America are about hospital closures. 
 
"So today we celebrate this opening against all odds. This return is for all of you in Berkshire County."
 
NARH was finally able to be designated a "rural critical access" hospital because of change in the federal government's definition of a connecting highway. Route 7 is now considered a "secondary" road because it is a two-lane (a secondary road) rather than four-lane and that drops the required distance between hospitals to 15 miles from 35. 
 
BHS officials have consistently said the critical access designation was imperative for the hospital's sustainability because it would allow for higher Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements 
 
Neal said his staff and the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had really come through in getting the designation changed, and spoke of the importance of Medicare as in access to not only medical care but employment, medical education and community wellness. 
 
"This is an extraordinary day in North Adams, for Northern Berkshire County,: he said. "There are very few people in this audience, if any, who would have said 10 years ago, we were ever going to come to recognize this moment."
 
Since the designation last spring, BHS has been working to reopen the second-floor patient wing and final federal and state permitting came through late last year. The hospital can have up to 25 inpatient beds; 18 private rooms have been constructed on 2 North. 
 
The last piece will be an inspection will be a final review by the Department of Public Health, on behalf the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, after two patients have each had a 48-hour stay. 
 
Rodowicz thanked all of the staff and contractors for making the place shine but noted some of the frontline staff weren't there. 
 
"I think they may be a admitting our first inpatient here," she said to applause. "It sounds odd that we're celebrating an inpatient admission ... but that is health care."
 
Kate Walsh, secretary of the state's Executive Office of Health and Human Services, described it as a "momentous moment."
 
"This just doesn't happen without partnership. And the kind of partnership we're seeing between private institutions like Berkshire Health and elected officials," she said. "When you think about what critical access hospitals can do, they can respond to the needs of the community — what you need, what your family needs, what your parents need — and they can flex the beds in a way that makes the most sense for the communities they serve. 
 
"And that critical access flexibility is why this hospital will be standing many, many years from now."
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey and state Rep. John Barrett III also spoke at the gathering. Barrett, the city's longtime mayor, said he'd gotten back into politics because of the closing, noting his late wife, Eileen Barrett, had been an operating room nurse. 
 
"I think this is very important in our community. It means a lot as far as health care. It's going to help us again change our image and the ability to provide people with quality health service, and I can't stress how important that is," he said, adding that the he thought the lobby should be named for Neal for having "pulled off something that no one ever thought would happen."
 
He also credited Rodowicz, describing her perseverance as a "bad smell" you just can't rid off. Rodowicz took it in stride, saying, "getting to know John the way I have, I know those were compliments" as the crowd roared. 
 
Macksey recalled she'd just bought her house on Hospital Avenue when the closing occurred, and how she'd worried about the hundreds who'd lost their jobs. 
 
"I always hoped and dreamt that there would be life back in this campus. So from a neighbor kind of view, I am so excited," she said. "Since BHS, has stepped to the plate and invested in this facility, there was hope for us, hope for the neighbors, hope for the community and hope for health care in general. But thanks to Representative Neal and the change in the guidelines, our hopes, our dreams and the reality of having a hospital is here."
 
The signage has already changed with "North Adams Regional Hospital" replacing North Adams Campus of BMC. The group gathered under the portico in front of the lobby under the new sign as Rodowicz cut a bright green ribbon to mark the reopening.
 
Emergency responders had dubbed the two emergency facilities as BMC North and BMC South for shorthand but those monikers may be changing. On Thursday, a report over the scanner was, "We're going to be arriving at the 'Reeg.'"

Tags: NARH,   ribbon cutting,   

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Marchetti Announces Jazz Art Contest Winners

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Brooklyn Duck is this year's winner of the contest and her work will be used for the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield High School has 75 jazzy artworks in City Hall, one of which was chosen to represent the 2024 Pittsfield City Jazz Festival.

Mayor Peter Marchetti on Thursday congratulated the winners of the annual Berkshires Jazz Student Art Contest. PHS junior Brooklyn Duck won first place followed by senior Nye Stedman and sophomore Karalin Melendez.

Duck's artwork features a colorful array of musical instruments and musicians with piano keys winding down the center.  She said that she was inspired by her teacher Lisa Ostellino and of course, jazz music.

"It's always good to invite people in the city hall and it's actually really great to be walking outside of my office and seeing the artwork," Marchetti said.

The festival runs April 18 to 28 with various events in Downtown Pittsfield.

Judges remained anonymous but it was revealed that they thought Duck's figures were well done and worked well with the curving piano keys. They felt that Stedman's piece featuring cats was fun with plenty of attention-grabbing aspects and a good concept. The judges liked Melendez's use of strong bold colors and graphics.

President and founder of Berkshires Jazz Edward Bride said Jazz Appreciation Month is a "big deal," officially recognized by the Smithsonian Institution and Congress.

"And we're making it a big deal with our student art contest," he added. "We want to thank Mayor Marchetti for allowing us to hang this wonderful work in the City Hall quarters and for being here to make the announcement of who the winners are."

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