BMC opens satellite facility at MCLA

MCLA opened a temporary urgent care center to cater to minor medical emergencies.
MCLA opened a temporary urgent care center to cater to minor medical emergencies. Photo courtesy of MCLA.edu.

Last Wednesday, the Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) opened a walk-in facility for non-emergency medical issues at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). After North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH) unexpectedly closed on March 28 due to financial insolvency, the area was left without any center for health emergencies, but the new satellite facility is helping to temporarily alleviate some of the community’s concerns about the lack of services.

Housed at the MountainOne Wellness Center on MCLA’s campus, the BMC serves local residents aged 18 and over from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days per week. BMC nurse practitioners and registered nurses provide medical care at the facility. “It is available for those who have minor health issues, such as minor illness or injury,” Michael Leary, director of media relations at Berkshire Health Systems said.

Around 150 former employees of NARH were hired by the BMC to provide extra manpower in order to extend their hours and offer a wider array of treatments. All commercial insurance plans, in addition to MassHealth and Medicare, are accepted by the walk-in center. While the BMC remains in operation, the MountainOne Wellness Center continues to serve MCLA students and faculty as usual.

According to Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, students at the College will not need to take advantage of the temporary clinic at MCLA since it provides essentially the same services as the Health Center on campus. “Both MCLA and the BMC have been in communication with us, but not about our joining it, because we already have weekend service,” he said. “It’s similar to the weekend service we have here, only there, they’re actually inviting the community to use it. In their case there’s a lot of expectation management about what they can and can’t do, what it is and what it’s for. It’s a wonderful triage opportunity for people in the North Adams and Adams communities and in the surrounding areas who don’t have immediate transportation down to BMC, and they can do it in a way that’s more affordable because it’s not an emergency room visit.”

Although offering similar services here could be beneficial to the community, the College may not have the resources to support them. “The thing is, on those weekend hours that they’re adding over at MCLA, we’re already fully occupied here, so I think if we invited the community in, we’d be hard-pressed to continue serving the students well, even if there were more practitioners that we were borrowing,” Dean Bolton said.

Since NARH closed in late March, the Northern Berkshire area has been without an emergency care facility. In NARH’s absence, the College is using BMC’s main campus in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vt.

The satellite facility at MCLA will continue to operate until the week of May 19, when the BMC plans to open a formal emergency room in the former NARH facilities. The proposal to do so was recently approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where NARH’s bondholders and the BMC came to an agreement on how to solve NARH’s solvency issues. Once the project comes to fruition, the new center will provide both emergency and non-emergency care for people of all ages 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days a year. College students who experience emergency illnesses or injuries will be encouraged to use this new facility.

“It’s a great opportunity for the community because they’ve made it open to everyone while the other center was being set up, which hopefully will open in the next couple of weeks in the NARH building,” Klass said.

The BMC is expected to formally purchase NARH’s facilities over the summer, but meanwhile, the state has hired a consultant to address the Northern Berkshire’s medical needs.