The Report Misses the Mark by Tying the Provision of those Services to Reimbursement Levels and Access to Federal Funding.
Despite finding that the residents served by former NARH have critical health needs and lack the transportation services to access alternative sites, the report would sanction denying necessary services without further federal assistance.
Nurses believe residents of Northern Berkshire County deserve access to needed inpatient services and it is the state’s responsibility to support those services.
NORTH ADAMS, MA — As Berkshire Medical Center, local and state officials continue to work on re-establishing desperately needed health care services for Northern Berkshire County following the illegal and unexpected closing of North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH), a long-awaited report commissioned by the state to evaluate the health needs of the region has been released today. The report, prepared by Stroudwater Associates, a health care consulting firm, confirms the need for inpatient services for the 37,000 residents of Northern Berkshire County currently without those services. However, the report misses the mark by tying the restoration of services to the financial “viability” of those services and support from the federal government through enhanced reimbursement.
The report clearly shows that the residents of Northern Berkshire County live in a region that is “worse off than the state and national average for a number of health status indicators. Asthma, most cancers and heart disease incidences are higher than the state average, and high percentages of the population are overweight, have a disability, and report poor general health. Combined, these factors create a vulnerable population for healthcare services” The report also notes that the fastest growing segment of the population is individuals 65 years and older, a population that has the highest utilization of and need for inpatient services. The report also cites broad community concerns about issues with the lack of transportation services to allow access to needed care.
In response to these intense needs, the report does recommend restoring ‘limited inpatient services,” but states those services, however necessary, be restored “only if the BMC North site (the recently purchased site of NARH where BMC now operates a satellite emergency department) is designated as a Critical Access Hospital.”
Under federal law, if a hospital is designated a “Critical Access Hospital” it is eligible for a higher federal reimbursement for health care services, because that facility serves a rural, isolated population. While the MNA has been leading the fight to secure this designation for BMC North, we firmly believe that residents of Northern Berkshire County should have access to inpatient services in their community and that if the federal government won’t provide Critical Access designation, then it is up to the state and Berkshire Medical Center, along with other stakeholders to find the resources to provide those services,
Most significantly, the report confirms the need for in-patient services in northern Berkshire County. Equally significant, in assessing the purported financial viability of providing those services, the report only looks at historical data from North Adams Regional Hospital as a stand-alone facility, rather than making a new assessment based on improved efficiencies and enhanced reimbursements that will result from now being part of the much larger Berkshire Medical Center health system.
We cannot allow state and local public officials, Berkshire Medical Center and the health care system in our state to ignore the needs and refuse services to the residents of Northern Berkshire County simply because they live in an economically disadvantaged and isolated region.
This community has a demonstrated the need for a full service hospital. That hospital was taken away from them due to gross mismanagement by previous administrators, and a board of trustees that allowed that mismanagement to continue for years and then broke the law to close the hospital. The health care needs of these residents have not changed. They had a full service hospital and they deserve one now, and our organization along with the hundreds of community members who have been fighting to restore critical services will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure the residents of Northern Berkshire County have appropriate health care.
In the coming weeks, the MNA will be working with residents, stakeholders and policymakers to ensure the needs of the community are met, including public forums to discuss the report and next steps in the campaign to restore a full service hospital.