Berkshire Health System to invest $6 million in BMC campus

On Oct. 21, Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) announced that it will invest $6 million in its Berkshire Medical Center Northern Berkshire Campus (BMC North), which is the former North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH).

According to a release, the Berkshire Health Systems Board of Trustees approved this investment in its capital budget in October. Since NARH closed, BHS has rehired 214 of its former employees in many service areas, to work at both BMC North and at the main campus in Pittsfield.

“When North Adams Regional Hospital closed, Berkshire Health Systems felt an obligation to step in and help the community,” Michael Leary, director of media relations at BHS, said. “While the hospital was open, we did not want to encroach on their services, but now there is a vacuum to fill. In filling this vacuum, the Massachusetts government has provided much support. Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz assessed strategy following the closing of the hospital in discussions with Berkshire Health Systems. Since Governor Patrick is a Berkshire resident, he is always engaged in Berkshire affairs.”

The investment will include $1.55 million for renovation and repair projects, $2.07 for medical equipment, $1.3 million for information technology, and $1.1 million for general projects.

“This is the next phase in Berkshire Health Systems’ ongoing commitment to provide enhanced healthcare services to the Northern Berkshire community,” said David Phelps, President and CEO of BHS, in a release. “This represents a major commitment in providing expanded and sustainable care, close to home for Northern Berkshire residents.”

BMC North will renovate the cardiology, urology and oncology physician offices, among other clinical spaces. The hospital will expand its services to include outpatient endoscopy, outpatient orthopedic surgery and outpatient mammography. In order to conduct these endoscopy and mammography services, BHS will purchase new technology. It will also buy out some technology leases from the former NARH, including a large bore MRI and high speed CT scanner.

The hospital’s electronic health record system will be upgraded to the same system used by the main Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) campus. The hospital will maintain archived patient medical records from the former NARH, as requested by state officials. The service expansions will take place during the next several weeks, while all other projects will take place over the next several months.

Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, expressed support for the expansion.

“I think that our students benefit from having large, comprehensive medical centers in Pittsfield and Bennington,” Klass said. “The addition of the BMC North facility and their ongoing expansion of imaging and outpatient surgery services can only make those important services easier to access.

“The close linkage between BMC and this satellite operation are already providing us with excellent service and, as in the past, major medical needs continue to be handled at their main campus in Pittsfield. I would expect that the recent increases in funding will only continue to enhance these services,” Klass added.

According to Angie Marano, director of administrative services at the College’s health center, this semester, students have made use of the BMC North facilities for scheduled radiology exams.

Other non-emergency student medical transports have been to Williamstown Physical Therapy, a private company that provides physical therapy, and for specialty visits to physicians, dentists, orthodontists and eye doctors for health exams.

Beyond the investments approved in the budget, future plans for the BMC North have not yet been announced.

“It is certainly possible there will be future expansions, but we are working on implementing this expansion before announcing any others,” Leary said.