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Judge delays North Adams emergency room closing

PITTSFIELD, Mass -- A state judge ordered North Adams Regional Hospital to continue running its emergency department after its parent company announced Tuesday it planned to close the entire hospital on Friday citing ongoing financial problems.

The State Attorney General and Department of Public Health are asking the court to issue an injunction because the hospital gave the community less than three days notice, instead of the required 90-day notice.

Superior Court Judge John Agostino issued a temporary order to keep the emergency department open through March 28. He required the Commonwealth to return to court before noon Friday with a specific list of departments needed to run the emergency department so he can extend the order through at least April 3 when a preliminary hearing is scheduled.

The Attorney Generals Office expects the governor and legislature will decide how much assistance, if any, the state will offer to Berkshire Medical Center in start-up funds to open a satellite emergency facility at the North Adams facility. Meanwhile, BMC is also working with the state to get the licenses it needs to operate the facility.

Its unclear where the funding for the emergency department will come from. According to an objection filed by NARHs parent company, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, the hospital only has about $2.7 million and $2.5 million is dedicated for employee paychecks, which leaves it with about $146,000 to pay for emergency services.

"NBH had planned to close the Emergency Department in a safe, planned way to ensure patients were treated in appropriate settings. We are now working to assemble staffing and ensure that we have necessary supplies neither of which is guaranteed. We are also required to keep operating until we exhaust the organizations funds, raising the possibility of running out of money while patients are in our facility. At this time there has been no offer of additional funding from any source. We are working hard to address all of these issues and a multitude of others. We are concerned about safety in the current circumstances, and as long as the order remains in place," said Paul Hopkins, a spokesperson for NBH, in an emailed statement.

It has not been determined how many of the 530 employees at NARH will remain after Friday. 1199 SEIU, which represents nearly 200 employees at NARH, posted on Twitter it is encouraged," but [the] community campaign will continue. "

Earlier Thursday, BMC announced it is working to provide administrative services to keep Northern Berkshire OB-GYN and Northern Berkshire Family Practice open. It is also working to manage patient records maintained by NARH.

BMC said it plans to open a laboratory drawing station on the NARH campus and is operating a 24/7 "CareLine" to answer scheduling and healthcare services questions at 855-262-5465.