NORTH ADAMS Mass.,– The North Adams Regional Hospital announced it will be closing Friday, leaving more than 500 employees without a job, and more than 13,000 residents without a hospital.
The announcement comes as a shock to many, coming out Tuesday, only giving employees and patients three days' notice.
The Mayor of North Adams told News10 ABC he's not surprised by the news, knowing the hospital is $30 million in debt. However, employees are questioning the legality of closing down with very short notice.
Northern Berkshire Healthcare owns the hospital and made the decision to close based on the hospital's worsening financial status.
Hospital officials say they are working to transition patients to other providers in the region. But patients are calling this unacceptable, especially with the short notice and the nearest hospital being 18 miles away.
The Village Ambulance Service said the closure of the hospital will affect the transport time getting patients to the neighboring hospital in Pittsfield. The General Manager of the service said they will just have to adapt to the changes.
"When we're talking lights and sirens, what would normally take us five to seven minutes to North Adams will now take us 20 to 25 minutes," said General Manager Shawn Godfrey of Village Ambulance Service in Williamstown.
The private, non-profit company serves five towns within Berkshire County and Southern Vermont and the primary hospital they take their patients is North Adams Regional Hospital. Emergency medical service provider say there are many factors to think about.
"It's about treating the patient appropriately in the ambulance and transferring them to the hospital. So, I definitely see the higher acuity patients, like the chest pain and shortness of breath, I definitely see that affecting those types of patients," explained Godfrey.
However, this does not mean they won't be able to do their jobs right.
"We are going to have to adapt to that longer transfer time which I think is possible. It's going to be a lot more communication with the physicians in the emergency room at BMC, but it's not the same as going just across the border to North Adams," he said.
Another factor the general manager said they need to think about is wear and tear on the ambulance, increase in fuel costs and overtime for workers.
The company will be meeting with hospital officials Wednesday to figure out a plan.
The mayor says emergency relief services will also be coming to the hospital to speak with the employees about unemployment and resume writing. He also said he would be in contact with state legislators and Governor Patrick to come up with a solution.
Hillcrest Dental Care confirmed on Wednesday that their North Adams office at 77 Hospital Avenue is open for business and is not in any way affected by the closing of the North Adams Regional Hospital.