NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – The following is a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association regarding the Aug. 9, 2017 letter from the Attorney General’s Office to Berkshire Health Systems that addresses the transfer of endowment funds from the former North Adams Regional Hospital to BHS and the actions of the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare Board of Trustees.
“The sudden and illegal closure of North Adams Regional Hospital shows that the public needs stronger protections to ensure we do not lose access to essential health care services. Massachusetts needs a law that truly safeguards residents from the kind of mismanagement that causes hospitals to close. It is clear to us that the residents of North County lost their hospital because of bad real estate investments unconnected to NARH’s mission as an acute care hospital. When hospital owner Northern Berkshire Healthcare filed for bankruptcy in 2012, it was weighed down by $44 million in debt related to non-hospital real estate investments.
“Moreover, the NBH board of trustees made the decision to close NARH without providing the notice required under state law. It is our belief that you cannot act in good faith and violate the law at the same time.
“In its letter, the AG’s Office writes that “[Berkshire Health Systems] is the most appropriate recipient of the Endowment Funds because of its role as a health care provider and its obvious connection to Northern Berkshire communities.” While we understand the limits of existing charities law, we believe that only a provider committed to restoring in-patient services should receive these Endowment Funds. Currently, there is no adequate mechanism under state law to ensure BHS provides North County residents with the in-patient services they lost.
“The Stroudwater Report, commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services, has confirmed that the health care needs of Northern Berkshire County residents are the greatest in the Commonwealth and has confirmed the need for 18 – 21 acute care inpatient beds to meet the needs of northern Berkshire County residents. BHS has failed to restore what is now its North Adams campus to a full-service hospital.
“The illegal closure of NARH and the aftermath should serve as a wakeup call to the public. Our elected representatives need to take steps to create a process and the legal framework to ensure all communities retain access to the health care they need.”
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.