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North Adams Regional Opening Moves Forward With State Approval
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:49AM / Tuesday, December 19, 2023
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The hospital is expected to reopen with in-patient beds in March. The campus has been a satellite facility since North Adams Regional's closing in 2014.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The state's Public Health Council approved the determination of need for North Adams Regional Hospital, and the hospital is now preparing to move forward with renovations.
The request by Berkshire Health Systems for a determination of need license was approved by the council last Wednesday; BHS received the official letter that the determination of need was awarded on Friday. 
"So in my mind, it was really official on Friday," said BHS President and CEO Darlene Rodowicz. "An hour after we got that approval, we got the letter from the state authorizing us to move forward with completing the inpatient unit renovations."
BHS is anticipating spending $2,850,000 to renovate 18 private patient rooms on 2 North and make other improvements to return NARH to a full-service hospital. The timeline is probably the March — a decade after the closure of the 129-year-old hospital.
North Adams Regional's demise was a shock to the North County system. More than 500 jobs were affected and thousands of people in Northern Berkshire and Southern Vermont had to look further north or south for medical care. 
BHS purchased the assets of the bankrupt Northern Berkshire Healthcare and reinstituted and expanded a number of medical services, including a satellite emergency facility. However, the satellite facility couldn't offer in-patient care.  
The health system began the process of resurrecting NARH last spring after changes championed at the federal level by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal allowed the BHS to pursue the designation of a rural critical access hospital and get higher Medicare reimbursements.
The approval of the original license — NARH is being treated as a brand-new hospital — and the go-ahead on the renovations means the project can enter its final phase.
"There's a lot of work going on there, both on the in-patient unit as well as some minor work in the OR, some changes to our kitchen so that we can serve meals, the new elevator," said Rodowicz. 
The reopening will be a few months later than planned, she said, because the state had held up the renovations until the filings were completed. 
Once the work is completed the hospital will need a certificate of occupancy from the city and then final license approval from the state Department of Public Health to operate. 
"We hope to be licensed in early March and then from there, we will admit a couple of patients that need to go into the hospital and stay two nights," Rodowicz said. 
Those first couple patients will be key to the hospital becoming certified as a Medicare provider. The DPH will do a second survey to see if the hospital complies with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulations. The facility's ability to bill CMS and other commercial plans will be a major component of its sustainability. 
"You are a full-service hospital on that day. All of the departments that are run by Berkshire Medical Center will switch from the BMC license to the North Adams license," said Rodowicz. 
The number of in-patient beds will expand slowly until all 18 are in use. There is the potential to eventually ramp up to 25, but that would require "big investment" and more renovations, likely on the fourth floor. 
Staffing is already being prepared, with a leadership team announced last month. Some employees will be coming from Pittsfield and others will be new hires.
"We are very, very confident in the leadership team and very pleased with the folks that have stepped forward and have said yes, to taking on the role," said the president, noting their extensive experience and familiarity with the North Berkshire. 
"The work we've done in our talent pipeline will also work really well for us. We've gotten new graduates that have come out of McCann in November and then BCC in December, and BCC will have another large group in June. That's just in the nursing ranks alone."
Rodowicz said she did not see a competition with existing nursing facilities. Some Berkshire nursing homes had expressed concerns at a public hearing earlier this fall about all 18 of the hospital's beds being used as "swing beds" for rehabilitation, calling it a duplication of effort that would hurt them. 
"We need really strong nursing homes. It's part of our continuum. And there are three critical access hospitals in Massachusetts already that have swing beds, and they have not caused any nursing home to close," Rodowicz said. "And so I think there's a role for both options to be available and for the patients to have choice."
Only select patients would be eligible for the hospital beds, which are geared for a only a week or two for a kind of "tune-up" before being released home. Longer-term rehabilitation would still take place in acute nursing facilities. 
Residents can expect to see a lot of activity on the hospital campus in the coming months. 
"Just be patient with us. There's going to be a lot of construction vehicles out there, are already out there and there'll be more," Rodowicz said. "And we're looking forward to the day we announce an official date [for opening."
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