PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, AUG. 28, 2013) — The item THE PLANET posted yesterday on the efforts of the Pittsfield School Department wanting the school committee to take up the idea of crew — crew, of all things — as a varsity sport hit a nerve for some reason. We think we know why.

First, in no particular order, is the class aspect of it. No, THE PLANET isn’t referring to “class” as a room in which learning takes place during school hours, something that doesn’t occur in Pittsfield public schools as often enough as $90+ million of taxpayer money would suggest. We mean “class” as a measure of social segregation. Crew is just plain snooty, an elitist sport if ever there was one. The Pittsfield schools might just as well try to push for polo (the “on the ponies” kind) as well. Crew caters to the privately educated, the children of big shots and the nouveau riche.

In other words, crew would be a way for the GOB chittlins’ to while away a little time after school before the next hit on the pipe but would serve few other kids. In case you haven’t noticed, which clearly the administration on the PPS hasn’t, Pittsfield isn’t awash in a lot of the brie-and-Dom-at-the-country-club set. There’s households of every description and families of every kind in public education at various stages between intact and disintegrated, with “parents don’t care” coming in strongest.

Second, looked at on a cost-benefit basis, the academic results of the PPS as a return on almost $100 million a year remain appallingly low. Logical, rational folks — including taxpayers — wonder why the focus isn’t on improving what takes place in the classroom during regular school hours. They just don’t get why the schools would be wasting a second, a penny, and a single brain cell on such a stupid idea as crew. Perhaps school Supt. Jason “Jake” McCandless, aka Jake IV or JIV [pronounced “Jive”], or school athletic director Jim Abel would care to explain. For the heck of it, did you even know that the school employs an A.D., like the PPS is Notre Dame with Gilded Portals or something?

Here’s a more modest proposal: Why not put all varsity sports on ice until the kids gets it in their heads that the reason they’re in school is to get an education and not belong to a big social club? What do you think about that, folks?



Here is an article posted on the Internet recently dealing with one person’s experience with Berkshire Medical Center and its emergency room. His experience isn’t everyone’s experience, but the article, shared with us as a hot link on the “comments” section two days ago, drew enough coverage and comment to warrant its straight posting. THE PLANET can only add that in our three trips to the BMC ER this year to accompany a mix of family, friends, and loved ones on a series of medical incidents, our experience was different. We found a caring staff eager to be of help and address the various medical issues at hand as best they could given the constraints of staffing and busyness at the time.

Here is Chris Barry‘s article, in the form of a letter he wrote this month to BMC. This article, first posted on Barry’s website [] , has an honest, sincere tone that conveys his frustration in an effective way. We reprint it exactly as published:

——- 000 ——-

Seeing Red: A Look At Emergent Care

August 25, 2013 by C.M. Berry

A Letter I wrote to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA pertaining to a recent visit:

To Whomever It May Concern,

On Wednesday August 14th I went into surgery at Berkshire Medical Center for a routine adult tonsillectomy that I was having performed at the age of twenty-four. The surgery went well and my first five days post-op went even better with minimal pain and very limited issues. I knew going into my first surgery that there may be complications due to my age; that was a given. My doctor had fully prepared me for this. What I was not prepared for was what happened on my sixth day post-op at 11:30PM. I was chewing on soft food and found myself beginning to bleed. Initially I chocked it up to the usual amount of bleeding that comes from the second stage of healing after a procedure of this nature. When that bleeding turned into fitful coughing, however, I decided to be proactive and wake my mother up to take me to the emergency room.

By 12:00AM on Tuesday August 20th I arrived at the emergency room at Berkshire Medical Center with an ice pack on my neck and bleeding in my throat. There were only a couple other people in the waiting room and the place looked deserted. We waited no more than ten minutes to be admitted and then close to another fifteen to be taken into an actual room. While we initially waited my bleeding was more or less under control with infrequent coughs and a small bucket given to me by the nurse at the counter. Within fifteen minutes of waiting in our room the bucket was needed. My coughing increased ten-fold and it didn’t take much time at all before the small bucket and my clothes were stained red. From 12:30 to 1:30 my mother and I waited patiently in our curtained room, but nobody came.

We checked in a few times with nurses that walked by and we were assured that a doctor would be in ‘soon.’ By 1:30 the coughing and bleeding reached a terrifying point and I decided to actively seek help. I walked up to one of the nurses nearest my room, shoved my small bucket of blood in her direction, and demanded a doctor because I clearly wasn’t getting any better. Within ten minutes I was moved to a trauma room and attended to by several people; many of the same people who I previously saw standing around doing nothing through the small opening in the curtain in the hour that I waited. By 3:00AM I was seen by a doctor and continually monitored as I lost more and more blood. While I was reassured that it was a ‘small amount,’ to someone who has never been in that type of situation before, several buckets of blood is no ‘small amount.’

The blood began pooling in my throat and clotting, decreasing my airway and increasing the need to cough to clear it. The doctor on call decided that I would need a second surgery and had the staff call in a surgical team, which I was forced to wait another two or more hours for. By 5:00AM, nearly six hours after the bleeding began, I was taken into surgery.

In the five hours that I was at the emergency room I counted more security guards than I did nurses or doctors; many of whom were busier on their cell phones than doing their actual jobs. In that five hour span only one person on staff actively sought help for me and was told it would be a while before being dismissed. In that five hours I went through four small buckets, a pair of shoes, a shirt, and two hospital beds, all of which were covered in my blood. In that five hours I never once felt like my needs as a patient were being adequately addressed.

The staff was nearly non-existent, overtly dismissive, and most likely working within the constraints of a financially strapped institution. Not only do I believe that there were few people on staff to properly handle the emergent cases present that night, but I wonder what would have happened had I come in in a worse condition than I had; perhaps hemorrhaging. Would I have bled out because of negligent care? Would I no longer be here because the proper staff needed to be called in to address my needs?

There is no doubt in my mind that if had I not taken an active role in having my needs met as a patient, that I wouldn’t be here today to talk about it. While many of you may paint this as overdramatic, think to yourselves what might have happened if I was there alone in that room with nobody checking in on me for over an hour while I was bleeding incessantly. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees a problem with this.

Berkshire Medical Center, while it may be an institution that deems itself one of learning and development, has quite a deal to learn itself about patient care, patient retention, and adequate medical practices. Until then I worry for those of us who need care at this institution; I worry for my family, my friends, and for myself. I even worry for this community.

Sincerely Yours,
Christopher M. Berry

I ask that every one of you please share this on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site; even those of you who don’t live in my immediate area. It would mean a great deal to me. It was a horrible experience and very reflective of patient care in my area. And as always thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry

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The issue of ER care inevitably becomes hot in any community. Every person’s reason for visiting the ER differs. Times of the day will lead to different realities in staffing and different outcomes of treatment. Certainly, when the ER is over-crowded, there’s bound to be trouble. Barry, above, says the ER wasn’t busy that night. Obviously, since we weren’t there with him during his ordeal, we cannot judge what happened. THE PLANET would welcome hearing from someone at BMC with a response to Barry’s letter.


 “Thou has nor youth nor age / But as it were an after dinner sleep / Dreaming of both.”T.S. Eliot, introductory epigram, “Gerontion.”




  1. dusty
    August 28, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Several years ago I went to 510 North st for what looked like a puffy lymph node in my groin. The doctor talked me into letting him remove it saying that although it might not be a problem, removing it would make sure it did not become a problem. A few hours later at home with my stomach /groin area all purple from internal bleeding, and getting very weak I was taken to the emergency room at BMC at about 7 pm. I do not recall being in the waiting room but I do recall being on a gurney pretty much alone for at least three hours. Alone except for the student types that kept coming in and asking for all my personal information over and over and over. It was a very helpless feeling being in an emergency room where no one seemed to consider my situation an emergency.

    Long story short, I eventually wound up in the intensive care unit as a result of being neglected for so long. (turns out that repeating your personal information 15 times does not cure internal bleeding…who knew?)

    I know several people who work there who are very dedicated and take their work seriously. I also know from them that the care could be much better at that location. The place seems to have millions for expansion but not for additional staffing.

  2. GMHeller
    August 28, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    To Christopher M. Berry and to ‘Dusty’,

    C’mon guys, get real!
    If Berkshire Medical Center places additional medical staff in the Emergency Room at night, especially personnel with expensive medical licenses, just how do you expect there to be enough money left over in BMC’s budget at end-of-year to be able to continue paying CEO David Phelps his whopping annual salary package plus perquisites (including that $1.08 Million retirement benefit ‘adjustment’ — Yes, you read that correctly, $1.08 Million, according to BMC’s latest IRS Form 990 on file at
    Do you seriously expect former Democrat Party honcho Phelps (who Democrat Party bum-kisser Alan Chartock says is a genius) to take a pay cut just to placate weaklings like the two of you who selfishly insist on getting sick at night?
    Just who do you people think you are?

    • CarlosDanger
      August 28, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      Our Healthcare system is based on those at the top (CEO’s, Insurance companies, Drug companies, etc.) raking in as much profit as possible. Contrary to what some dishonest politicians state, we do not have the ‘best healthcare system in the world’. In fact, our healthcare system is downright horrible when you consider we pour more money into it than any other country. There was over 8 billion dollars of waste and inefficiency in our healthcare system last year. 8 BILLION!
      Of course, Obamacare is not going to make it any better.

  3. GMHeller
    August 28, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    By the way, that $1.08 Million retirement benefit ‘adjustment’ for CEO David Phelps is IN ADDITION to Phelp’s salary package from BMC totaling $562,261 annually (data from BMC’s 2011 IRS Form 990).

  4. Shakes His Head
    August 28, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    I think the Planet underestimates the outreach and social integration that many sports like crew, tennis, ice skating, and golf push to reach the disenfranchised. If only we elected a president that was big into dressage, that would tweak a nerve.

  5. Outfox
    August 28, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    With two wonderful lakes here, I’m surprised that crew isn’t already offered. If PPS were to cancel sports, they would also have to cancel ALL extracurriculars— drama club, irchestra, etc.

    Also, in regards an post last week suggesting The Planet install a “like” option, please don’t. This is one place that requires thoughtful discussion in order to participate rather than just rotely hitting “like” as one does in the course of so many Web interactions. It doesn’t take much integrity to hit “like”.

  6. Terry Kinnas
    August 28, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Some updates.

    I will not support Crew rowing for the following reasons: safety, logistics (four bodies of water), cost (very expensive equipment) and a lack of progress in academic rigor at this point. The item is tabled to at least the next meeting. The information provided from the athletic department of the Pittsfield Public Schools identifies 18 varsity crew programs in the state; Lenox, which Pittsfield sends almost 800k of school choice funds to has a booster club-funded club level program.

    The 200K that was cut from different accounts (not just one account) was cut for very good reasons. The vocational supply account, increased by 100k, was cut back to a 80k increase, 50k was cut from a state mandated/requested online test program that may not happen,60k cut from fuel,20k cut from central office,20k cut from telephone,30k cut from testing and library materials.

    The state has increased funding by at least $1,400,000 more than last year and more may be identified shortly.

    • CarlosDanger
      August 28, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      Terry, thank you for not supporting Crew. At least someone is standing up for the taxpayer. It also seems to be a sport for the elite.

    • danvalenti
      August 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Good to hear about your vote on crew. Thanks for your input on the 200K. Also, congratulations on your recent victories on the Open Meeting Law. THE PLANET shall have the exclusive!

  7. Ron Kitterman
    August 28, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks Terry for doing your homework, it seems to be the motto of the committee and city council to live under the motto when in doubt, give it out.

  8. NBI
    August 28, 2013 at 10:44 am #


    You should have had your mother either shoot you or stab you and then call an ambulance. No doubt you would have received premium service and probably not had to pay for it!

    • danvalenti
      August 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Excellent strategy!

  9. Dennis O'Keefe
    August 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm #


    Your reaction to the crew proposal is a knee jerk one. The Worcester Public schools, for example, has an excellent crew team. And, other public school systems have long offered crew programs, which teach the values of discipline, punctuality, patience, and teamwork.

    If you’ve never tried it, why not look into it before blowing your horn about reading, writing, and arithmetic?

    • danvalenti
      August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

      Thank you, DENNIS. I haven’t crew but have worlds of trying reading, writing, and arithmetic, and I know THEY work. Can’t say the same about … crew.

  10. Charles Trzcinka
    August 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    My experience on May 31, 2012 with BMC was very different. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance after a bike accident. The staff was (as far as I can woozily remember) very attentive and I was quickly given multiple tests. I was admitted to the critical care unit for a day and then regular care for another. My interaction with the neurological staff was excellent and they had numerous suggestions. When I got back to Indiana, my neurosurgeon was much less concerned and not especially interested implementing the suggestions. I complained to my regular doctor here and we decided to take some of the BMC advice. I find it hard to believe the BMC that I experienced is the same hospital that Chris Barry describes.

    • danvalenti
      August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

      Thanks, CHUCK, for your testimony.

  11. Tom Verizer
    August 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    ve had mixed experiences at BMC. Regular care was great. My one trip to the ER though was much the same as Chris Barry describes. I hope someone from BMC responds to Mr. Barry.

  12. Ron Kitterman
    August 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I has the opportunity to walk from South Street down East Street past PHS and then down outer East Street about a week ago. Graffiti as was marked on the Civil War Memorial and markings that looked like someone was using it as a skate board ramp still, places in the front of PHS were marked with someone’s initials and of course the $250 K skate board park was marked with a peace sign symbol, where not one of the young lads was wearing a helmet. If these young students want lessons in discipline, punctuality, patience, and teamwork. I’m available on a volunteer basis , but I’m doubtful there will be any takers. With a few fresh new faces on the Pittsfield School Committee coming in, I’m sure they can scrap up enough cash to fund most any project like the crew team proposal till they run out of money.

  13. Scott
    August 29, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    Bmc lost my daughters culture from an abcess and she went nearly a month with MRSA. No big deal right? Look for my letter to the editor soon.

    • danvalenti
      August 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      Copy us in on that letter, too. We shall run it.