NW Massachusetts' regional hospital closes

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Photo - More than 100 demonstrators stand outside to protest the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, on Friday, March 28, 2014, in North Adams, Mass. The hospital announced the closure of the community hospital, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Berkshire Eagle, Gillian Jones)
More than 100 demonstrators stand outside to protest the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, on Friday, March 28, 2014, in North Adams, Mass. The hospital announced the closure of the community hospital, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Berkshire Eagle, Gillian Jones)
News,Business,Massachusetts

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) — Financially troubled North Adams Regional Hospital shut down Friday, and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office would conduct an investigation into the actions that led to "this rapid closure."

Several dozen people at a vigil, including union members and hospital supporters, were peacefully evicted from the hospital, The Berkshire Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1o9amMu).

Closing the hospital emergency room, in particular, means some residents in the region will have to make long drives, up to 45 minutes, to get emergency care.

"I am deeply troubled by the rapid closure of this hospital," Coakley said in a statement. "The harmful impact on the employees and on the accessibility of health care for the people of these communities is unacceptable. Our office will be conducting a full investigation into the actions of the board that led to this rapid closure."

Coakley said she was working to restore emergency services "as quickly as possible," alongside Berkshire Medical Center's efforts in nearby Pittsfield to get a license to run the North Adams site as a satellite facility.

Coakley said the North Adams hospital, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2012, didn't have the resources to safely maintain the emergency room. She had obtained a court order Thursday to keep the emergency room open temporarily, then said Friday she asked to amend it because keeping the room open wasn't tenable.

Northern Berkshire Healthcare owns the 129-year-old hospital, a visiting nurse and hospice group, and three medical practices. The company announced Tuesday it would close the hospital and its health care businesses, beginning Friday. Together, they employed about 500 people.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association union said the announcement violated a 90-day notice state requirement. The group on Friday called for the governor and others "to address this public health crisis."

Local trustees of Northern Berkshire Healthcare issued a statement, saying they share the community's "deep sense of sadness on this day." The volunteer board said it had tried to stabilize the finances but was unable to meet costs in the face of cuts in government and private insurance reimbursements and an overall decline in patient numbers.

Northern Berkshire businesses served northern Berkshire County in western Massachusetts and parts of nearby rural Vermont and New York state.

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Information from: The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle, http://www.berkshireeagle.com

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