In light of the recent closing of the North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH), we at the Record commend the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) for working with the Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) to set up a temporary facility for non-emergency issues. As members of the Berkshire community, we care deeply about the health and safety of people in the area, and this facility ensures that community members have convenient access to health care in the interim period between NARH closing and BMC opening its new emergency services unit in North Adams. This interim facility, as well as the new emergency services unit that will open soon, ensure that community members do not have to drive too far to get non-emergency care. This is especially important for low-income residents of North Adams, for whom an ambulance ride to Pittsfield or Vermont might be prohibitively expensive. The new facility will also hopefully lessen some of the strain on ambulances in the surrounding area caused by the closing of NARH. Members of the Berkshire community will now be able to drive themselves to this facility for non-emergency issues and avoid calling an ambulance unless absolutely necessary.
We at the Record would also like to praise BMC and MCLA for providing interim jobs to some of the many people who lost their jobs when NARH shut down. Though the clinic will not be open long term, it provides a stopgap measure for some of those who are reeling from the loss of their previous employer. It is at least a good measure to provide temporary help to some of those who lost their jobs while they figure out how to proceed.
Another benefit of this facility is that it makes decisions about health care easier for residents. Because of the interim facility, there is no longer a need to decide between driving to Pittsfield, Mass. or Vermont for medical care or simply not going to a doctor at all. The close proximity eliminates the need to perform this kind of cost-benefit analysis. Given the lower average income of North Adams residents, this benefit is even more important.
We at the Record wonder, however, if the College could have somehow contributed to these efforts to help the community deal with the loss of NARH. We recognize and commend the efforts the College has made to ensure that Williams students continue to have access to health care and emergency services. But we also encourage the administration to think beyond the purple bubble and to remember that our community is also suffering from this loss, likely more than the College is. We recognize that our health center is already busy and that opening the Health Center to the community would put additional pressure onto our system. However, seeing as it is a temporary setup, we believe this might have been a viable option for the College to consider, and a good way to help our community. We do acknowledge that MCLA was the more logical option for a temporary clinic due to the previous location of NARH.
Going forward, we encourage the College – both the administration and the student body – to consider ways to support health care in the Berkshires, whether through volunteering, government lobbying, advocacy or other avenues. Although the College has secure access to health care, we must understand that the community has been dealt a severe blow and recognize our responsibility to the Berkshire community.