Sudden Hospital Closure Stuns MA Community; More Coming

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media , April 2, 2014

The events leading up to the abrupt closure of a regional hospital in a remote corner of Massachusetts are complicated. But many community hospitals across the country are equally vulnerable, and more will close.

Tucked into the northwest corner of Massachusetts in a valley between the Taconic mountain range to the west and the Berkshires to the east sits the state's smallest city, North Adams.

Cotton, wool, and textile mills fueled the growth of this town generations ago. Today on the sprawling site of one of those industrial complexes, the city boasts a world-class contemporary art museum. Still, incomes are low and jobs are scarce.

Things have been particularly rough lately. Residents endured a mercilessly long winter punctuated by two pronounced arctic blasts. In January, after 170 years, the North Adams Transcript published its last issue. Last week, strong winds and rain toppled the town's cell phone towers, leaving most people without Internet or mobile phone service.

On Friday, events took a turn for the worse.

With only three days' notice, North Adams Regional Hospital, operated by private, not-for-profit Northern Berkshire Healthcare, locked its doors and laid off 500 workers. Now anyone who is sick or hurt and in need of a hospital has to drive over twisting roads for 18 miles north to Southwest Vermont Medical Center in Bennington or 21 miles south to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA. That could be a torturous drive in an emergency, especially in bad weather.

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5 comments on "Sudden Hospital Closure Stuns MA Community; More Coming"

Roger Forsberg (4/6/2014 at 7:40 PM)
[...I'm reminded of these lines from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: "'How did you go bankrupt?' Bill asked. 'Two ways,' Mike said. 'Gradually and then suddenly.'"....] This quotation provides an astute & knowledgable addition to this unhappy article in the sense that in many ways financial health is similar to human health: in both instances the 'entity', whether financial or human, cannot indefinitely continue to become sicker & sicker. Death (or bankruptcy) will eventually result.

jeff blank (4/5/2014 at 2:35 PM)
Although Medicare and Medicaid payments are less than in the private sector they are far more than reiumbursements in most of Europe. Perhaps one of those countries could come over and show us how it is done for less. The reality is that we pay far too much for healthcare in this country and places like Boston are sucking the dollars out of smaller communities and this is the consequence.. It might be a great case study into developing new in home models of care (although reopen the ER as well).. A 36 bed hospital really can't meet the quality standards it needs to.

bob sigmond (4/3/2014 at 11:22 AM)
I suggest that Partners in Boston offer to get involved to help solve the hospital shutdown crisis as it affects the health of the affected communities. Statewide leadership from the not-for-profit sector is required in this situation.




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