HCN News & Notes

North Adams Regional Hospital to Reopen as Critical Access Hospital

NORTH ADAMS — On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal joined Berkshire Health Systems President and CEO Darlene Rodowicz; North Adams Regional Hospital Vice President Laurie Lamarre; Kate Walsh, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services; North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey, and local and state officials to commemorate the reopening of North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH) as a critical access hospital (CAH).

Ten years to the day after NARH was closed, Neal commemorated the reopening of the hospital as a CAH. Prior to recent changes enacted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that affected the qualification for a CAH designation, NARH was ineligible, which ultimately led to the hospital’s closure in 2014. These changes were enacted by CMS after Neal advocated for the Biden administration to address barriers to healthcare in underserved communities, including amendments to the federal government’s CAH criteria.

Once reopened, NARH will be licensed to care for up to 18 patients, providing 24/7 emergency care, surgical care, outpatient services, and inpatient care. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will be surveying the hospital’s inpatient unit for CMS a step that is required prior to certifying NARH as a CAH. The final timeline for that unannounced survey is expected to occur in the near future.

“Throughout my career in public life, I have stood by the notion that legislation changes lives. Today’s announcement is a living example of that belief, as the reopening of North Adams Regional Hospital will have a profound impact on communities throughout North County for years to come,” Neal said. “There are stark inequities in rural and underserved communities as it relates to our nation’s health system. That is why I have long advocated for changes that will address health equity and allow everyone to have a fair and just opportunity to achieve their highest level of health, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

Rodowicz added that “the reopening of North Adams Regional Hospital is a historic opportunity to advance the health and wellness of the Northern Berkshire community. Expanding access to care for North Berkshire through a critical access hospital is a key part of our strategic plan.”

Prior to the change in CAH criteria, CMS did not take into account geographic conditions that impact a patient’s ability to access care. Neal advocated for the Biden administration to recognize the unique situations communities face, particularly addressing the types of roads that patients need to travel on in order to get to care. As a result, CMS redefined a CAH as being a hospital located more than a 35-mile drive, or a 15-mile drive in mountainous terrain or secondary roads, from any other hospital or CAH. This change allowed NARH to be designated as a CAH, enabling the hospital to receive higher payments from Medicare and offset the challenges of operating a full-service facility in a less populated area.

“Through BHS’s coordinated system of care, North Adams Regional Hospital will partner with Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital, the nationally recognized critical access hospital serving South Berkshire, to provide comprehensive healthcare services across Berkshire County,” Lamarre said. “We look forward to the future of NARH. Our entire staff is proud to expand access to care as part of our mission to advance health and wellness for everyone in our community.”