Article

!!UPDATED!! NARH CLOSING ANNOUNCEMENT ODD IN THE EXTREME … TOO MANY QUESTIONS LEFT UNANSWERED FOR A REELING COMMUNITY … WHO WILL PROVIDE ANSWERS TO ‘WE THE PEOPLE?’

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

ED. NOTE: THE PLANET presents this update to our coverage of the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, which we added yesterday, pre-empting our existing story about our friend, the former nun. We’ve place today’s update as a preface to yesterday’s piece, which you may have missed if you went on THE PLANET in the morning and didn’t return. We shall also say that the sources we cite in this coverage insisted, to a person, that we not identify them either by name or by position. THE PLANET shall respect that condition, since we realize that there is some measure of concern behind their requests.

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2014) — THE PLANET, the first media site to announce the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital, apparently shall remain the only one to look underneath and behind the official statements put out by the protagonists in the case. NARH official statements and press releases say one thing, and they are helpful — to a point.

That tipping point has to do with the nature of the official announcement: Made on Tuesday by The Suits to throw 530 employees and laborers out into the street a mere three days later at 10 a.m. Another 200 to 300 people will lose jobs as a result of $100 million each year taken out of the local economy.

There’s a lot more to this story. It remains to be seen if other media, especially The Boring Broadsheet, dares to get that “more.” THE PLANET, meanwhile, has made discreet inquiries with several people involved with this story at its epicenter.

Sources are telling THE PLANET that this odd, truncated, inhuman, and inhumane manner of closing has been in the works for some time, at least months and maybe much longer, having its origins in NARH’s negotiations with Berkshire Health Systems‘ regarding the acquisition of the former by the latter.

Sources speak of a plan, perhaps in place and perhaps not, that THE PLANET shall dub OPERATION WHITE KNIGHT. It goes roughly like this.

(1) NARH, with a history of deficits in recent years, does not have to make a case that it is in financial straights. That is a foregone conclusion.

(2) The decision is made by the hospital’s trustees to close the hospital.

(3) The manner in which the closing is announced, which sources say was the topic of fierce and heated debate internally, resembles in Siamese-twin fashion what actually happened: the declaration of the hospital’s closing in hammer-like, dramatic fashion, with a mere “coupla-three” days from announcement to the shutting of the doors. Why? That’s a big question in the community. Why do it in such a hasty way, giving employees and their families precious little time to assimilate the news? Sources say the question contains the answer: This way would preclude anything or anyone having enough time to “get in the way” of the decision. Basically, if our sources are accurate, the manner of closing was a way to steamroll the decision over any conceivable “proletarian protest.”

(4) The reason for the callous manner of the announcement is, as one source put it, “to shake the money tree.” Money, after all, is the core of the problem.

(5) Sources say that “shaking the tree” apparently will (if it happens) take the form of one (perhaps several) “knights in shining armor” riding white steeds to come to the 11th-hour rescue. Pressed to identify the knights, the chief one named was BHS.

(6) BHS had been in negotiations to takeover NARH. That’s fact. Those negotiations fell thorough. That’s fact. Why? It depends on who you ask. One source says one of the stumbling blocks would have been the monopolistic position of BHS for local healthcare had the deal gone through. Our source said there would have been “certain” antitrust legislation filed. BHS backed off, also fact.

(7) Sources agree that a medical emergency, however, would lead to a different set of conditions that could change everything. What kind of emergency? The closing of NARH. Under the aegis of a health-emergency intervention, BHS could step in, take over NARH’s the assets and liabilities, and announce a “re-opening” or a “reprieve” of or for NARH.

(8) Under this scenario, BHS would acquire NARH and rehire some of the staff that lost their jobs, at steep pay reductions. If, and it’s a big one, BHS intervenes in this way and at the last minute “saves” NARH, it would presumably do so (a) free of antitrust threats by virtue of emergency protection and (b) possess a money loser that, literally overnight, becomes a money winner by virtue of the fact that all of the current union contracts at NARH would be dissolved. BHS could then rehire people desperate to keep jobs on the company’s terms, not those of the employees.

THE PLANET cannot pronounce one way of the other about the likelihood of OPERATION WHITE KNIGHT becoming reality. We have seen enough, however, to at least report that such a plan appears to have been formulated, and, even as we write, is likely being discussed at high corporate and political levels.

We can say add that such a plan as OPERATION WHITE KNIGHT or something like it would enable BHS to achieve its desire to acquire NARH, legally, without concern for antitrust, and be seen as the rescuing agent, just to add a sweetener for good measure.

The champagne corks would be popped. The dancing girls would be summoned. Rousing chorus of Handel’s “Hallelujah” would be sung over what could very well be a successful attempt at union busting. That being said, THE PLANET will add that other sources claim the unions drove NARH into the ground. They say the unions (nurses, custodians, housekeepers, and the rest) did nothing to help NARH administration to reduced costs.

Other factors that have been mentioned:

* An administration that had become top-heavy and too heavily compensated.

* A board of trustees that received too much for too little.

* Too many uninsured patients

* Reductions in reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare.

It’s likely a combination of some or all these factors.

It would also be helpful to take a close look at all of the NARH financial and tax records. Those would, no doubt, contain many helpful clues to this mystery. This would include the salaries and compensation packages for their administration. Will The BB or anyone else take up that challenge?

Bottom line is the pain and suffering this “shock and awe” announcement has had. Plan or no plan, THE PLANET cannot see a scenario where that is simply forgotten and forgiven by the hundreds and hundreds of people affected here. This includes the 530 who will lose jobs, another 200-300 ancillary jobs that will vanish as $100 million is taken out of the local economy each year, and all of their family, friends, and loved ones.

We ask the trustees at NARH: How much did that bother you for your decision and the manner in which you announced it?

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Here is our previous “break-in” coverage that you may have missed:

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NOTE: The closing of North Adams Regional Hospital presents a story with a moving target, perhaps not as fixed as Wednesday’s “second coming” media coverage would suggest. Even as we type, THE PLANET is uncovering more information — “not for publication,” behind-closed-doors stuff — that, without which, the complete story of this dramatic announcement will remain untold. We put the challenge squarely to The Boring Broadsheet: Dig. Go beyond the company’s press releases. There may be — we only say may be — a story here that’s even bigger than the one you have so dutifully reported.

THE PLANET’s readers can be assured that we shall, with our limited resources and time, continue nudge, bolt, and stab the embers of the story. The fire may die out, but there are tantalizing indications of another flameout.

o —————————————- o

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY into THURSDAY, MARCH 27-8, 2014) — THE PLANET, first to break the news of North Adams Regional Hospital‘s closing, must deal with the reportage of this story before anything else. We do so for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a lifetime of direct involvement with large stories both national (Son of Sam, Three-Mile Island, presidential elections) and local (too few to count). A reasonable fair barometer can be placed upon individual media for its coverage  and response to such stories.

We can, we will, and we do give grudging credit to The Boring Broadsheet for its excellent first-day coverage of the NARH story in yesterday’s edition. The qualifier that withholds our credit from becoming outright praise can be found in  THE PLANET’s demand for consistency as well as reservation to see how the paper handles the all-important follow-ups. If The BB can cover a story with such thoroughness, however infrequently, it demonstrates that it can cover the community in such a manner — and with regularity. That it doesn’t do so — that yesterday’s team coverage of NARH stands as a Hawthawanian “aberration” — engenders only disappointment of how much a community loses when its dominant quotidian media outlet almost always takes the powder.

No, it’s not good enough that the blind squirrel occasionally stumbles upon a chestnut or that a broken clock is right on two occasions each day. Neither is it good enough when a promising student in The Professor’s advanced composition course writes the sporadic honors-quality essay. She has the talent but for some reason refuses to apply it on an undeviating basis. In the same way, we cannot let our applause linger when a local daily newspaper once in a great while actually does the job its supposed to do: Tell the truth with an emphasis on what its readers need to know. With that, we acknowledge the fine work turned in by Scott Stafford, Jim Therrien, John Sakata, Edward Damon, Tony Dobrowolski, and the editors who directed them —with one large exception, which we shall note below.

The other asterisk THE PLANET places on our acclaim is attached to the follow-up to this important story. The get at the underlying causes of the hospital’s demise — that’s the story that begs to be written. In its first-day coverage, The BB relied on The Suits’ version, straight out of the mouth of the NARH spin team. That fine, but now it will be up to the newspaper to get after the true story of why this happened. It must burrow and not be dissuaded when the complicit officials put up roadblocks. That’s where a reporter’s sources and contacts come into full use. THE PLANET, for example, has such contacts. Does The BB? We shall see.

NARH Admins Not Telling the Whole Story … and a Look at the Causative Factors

First, based on our initial investigations and experience with stories of this kind, THE PLANET can tell you with all reasonable assurance that the NARH trustees and bosses have not given the full story. Prima facia evidence can be seen in the bizarre manner in which they announced the closing, not with a whimper but with a bang.

On Tuesday came the sudden announcement of the closing to be at 10 a.m. Friday. Why the out-of-the-blue sledge-hammer approach? One theory is that NARH will not close at all but that its electors decided to play this desperate card as a way to rally public support and wake up the politicians for the simple end of getting more money.

Under this theory, NARH directors will make an equally dramatic, last-minute announcement that NARH will not close. This settlement will include among other players, with Berkshire Health Systems of Pittsfield playing a large part of the cavalry riding to the rescue of Custer. The politicians will be lining up to slap themselves on the back. THE PLANET does not discard this theory outright because of our source, who we can at least say is intimately connected to the local health-care scene. Nonetheless, if forced to accept or not, we would decline. Some things are even too eccentric for northern and central Berkshire County.

One notable lack, a glaring one, actually, in The BB‘s coverage is how the editors did not direct any team member into a deep-digging of NARH’s financial details. The closet it came was a feeble, wholly inadequate sidebar on the hospital’s “annual financial outcomes” from 1999 to 2012 compiled by Jennifer Huberdeau. The side bar tok the form of:

“Fiscal 1999: NBH reports a profit of $1.4 million. Fiscal 2000: Reports a profit of $311,000. Fiscal 2001: Reports a loss of $1.9 million on $$56.5 million in revenue. Fiscal 2002: Reports a $1 milllion loss” and so on. Rumors and rumblings had preceded the NARH earthquake with such sufficient regularity that The BB should have had such a detailed and exposing financial analysis at the ready. It obviously didn’t.

The information in the sidebar tells us nothing about the why behind the profits and, mostly, losses. For example, The BB failed to examine the hospital’s tax returns. It did not provide data on the make-up of the administration, reportedly top-heavy and over-compensated. THE PLANET would suggest to our editorial colleagues at The BB that they put a tireless bulldog on that aspect of the story. Give him or her the instruction simply to go where the numbers take you. It could reveal much. Or shall we once again have to do the job for them?

Along those lines, THE PLANET received the following letter:

As the spouse of a nurse at NARH and a businessman, I have been listening to “the improvements” that CEO Tim Jones has instituted over the last year. Jones spent thousands of dollars to remodel his office, hired consultants that had never worked in a medical setting before, and put into action a reorganization plan that was never vetted with the Dept of Public Health or the nurses union. And when questioned by staff doctors about his decisions, they were given fluff answers or ignored.

It kinda seems like Jones was hired to make sure NARH closed it’s doors. I wonder what kind of severance package Jones gets…… The other 499 employees, they get “help filing for unemployment.” — AW

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THE PLANET will continue to poke around at the edges and perhaps the center of this story, given a set of severe, deadline induced time restraints. Stay tuned.

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“The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews.” — W.H. Auden, “Death’s Echo.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

89 Responses to “!!UPDATED!! NARH CLOSING ANNOUNCEMENT ODD IN THE EXTREME … TOO MANY QUESTIONS LEFT UNANSWERED FOR A REELING COMMUNITY … WHO WILL PROVIDE ANSWERS TO ‘WE THE PEOPLE?’”

  1. eddiep
    March 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Another theory to ponder is this.. This hospital has been trying to kill the unions for a long time. What’s to say if they do close and then open and re-organize under a different name and go non-union?
    It happened a long time ago with Mullin Mayflower.
    It’s not unheard of.
    This way the suits get to keep their jobs and everyone else scrambles.

  2. Rafael
    March 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    Fret not, all. The CEO and upper level mgmt made very sure they got their piece of the pie. As long as they get their money, why would anyone care about anyone else?
    Is my sarcasm coming across today?

  3. Scott
    March 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    I am personally very concerned about the hospital closing. I think the problem is the same as we discuss about entire cities being bankrupted. Top heavy administrators and unions wanting more and more.

  4. Jonathan Melle
    March 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    The North Adams Hospital closings will end up in a court of law.

    • CTrzcinka
      March 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      I doubt there will be any suits. Who will sue and where is the money to compensate them if they win? I can’t imagine a lawyer would take this on anything but a pro-bono basis.

      Whoever thinks that there is an anti-trust violation of BHS taking over NARH needs to read the laws. They apply only to private companies. There is no concept of “anti trust” with non-profit or government agencies.BHS is a private non-profit organization and its not too much of a stretch to call it a government agency.

  5. SoxRock
    March 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    There are more questions that need to be asked. NARH is the only competition to BHS in close proximity. How come despite financial struggles, BHS has been planning its own expansion, seems a bit odd considering their census is down too. Look at well connected Pittsfield GOB’s acquiring and permitting land near BMC? hmm. Why was there a hidden lobbying effort to the federal government so NARH did not receive the same payouts from Medicare and Medicaid that BMC does. Questions should be asked? because ultimately out of this politicians and well to dos in the region will come in and be saviors for NARH! It will then be a subsidiary of BHS. This is bad thing the long run. Yes initially the partnership will bode well for both entities.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Many other questions, many, need to be asked. You are correct, Sox.

  6. Dave
    March 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Before you give the BB too much credit, let me be the first to end this short lived romance,

    Page 1 All bold print NARH to close

    Page c6 Jobless rate drops in North Adams.

    Same paper, same day!!!!

    If I win 400 million in the lottery, Jonathan Levine will own the BB
    and Dan V will be his highest paid reporter( Don’t worry Dan, there will be no need for sucking up to advertisers).

    • eddiep
      March 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

      They fired the people that would have caught that.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      DAVE
      Thanks. We left that out for two reasons: We didn’t want to take away the focus from the story plus, that would have been piling on! Besides, there is such blasted little chance to toss The Boring Broadsheet any kind of bone. As for your kind job offer, assuming you could afford us, we would accept on the strict condition of, as you say, not having to “kiss up” to advertisers.

  7. Mark
    March 26, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    The unions want more and more…to keep up with the top heavy administrators as they get more and more. At least the union employees work for it.

    • Joe Blow
      March 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Most are hard workers but the union protects a lot of dead weight also. Once the join the union they can do whatever they want and not get fired.

    • Scott
      March 27, 2014 at 3:36 am #

      I never said they didn’t deserve it. The top admins are more of leeches. But the fact remains when a business isn’t profiting you don’t get a raise. That goes for everyone. But yeah when the top people are giving themselves large cash bonuses it’s kind of hard not to ask where yours is. The right thing to do would have been everyone just tightens thier belt.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      Wherever these two elements occur, as in the city of Pittsfield school department, the enterprise is doomed.

  8. Giacometti
    March 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Did someone say union busting ? The threat closing of NARH is exactly that and it will work to keep unions from NARH.

    • I Care About Pittsfield
      March 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Well Giacometti, perhaps it was the unions who brought this on by demanding too much not giving ground and basically running the hospital’s personnel costs sky high.

      • B
        March 27, 2014 at 10:37 am #

        Same goes for the city of Pittsfield look at the school department and the union. No one has the balls to say enough is enough and no more stupid contracts.

  9. outfox
    March 26, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    Whatever the reasons, whomever the bad actors in the closing of NARH. what this really comes down to at this moment is the people of North county who are being affected. Physical and economic health are being compromised here; knowing that these healths are vital—in the truest sense of the word—here in North county, and those of us tied to North county through family or jobs, have gotten together these past 24 hours and started petitions, organized community meetings, mobilized residents and are doing everything we can to prevent this closure. I can tell you that this afternoon Rep. GailAnne Cariddi was answering her own phone and speaking with constituents, and both in the press and to callers she is promising callbacks. Now that’s community representation; kudos to her. Now honestly, our efforts may come to naught, as big money always seems to be able to purchase foregone conclusions, but there are several remedies available…the distressed hospital fund, for one.

    I can also tell you that this blame game is starting to polarize residents here, as we have known hospital board members for years, and were shocked that they didn’t do more to prevent this. Rural communities by necessity are notoriously resilient, but the impact of this closure is one from which we cannot, I fear, bounce back.

    Of all the conversations one has to have with aging parents, i never thought I’d have with them the one I had today, which boiled down to “So do you still want to die in Berkshire County?” To which the response was: “With no hospital to draw and keep people rooted here, there’s no value to this house, no sense in putting it on the market” . THAT, my fellow Planetarians, is the true and devastatingly, obscenely sad truth here: a lifetime of hard work, a mortgage that turned into a bought and paid for home in the center of town, all about to be worthless. We can play the blame game later. For now, we need to stay eyes on the prize and do everything we can to prevent this.

    Oh and Pittsfield? I’m talkin’ to you too here.(Full disclosure: I live in Pittsfield). All of us in Pittsfield as well must try to prevent the closing of NARH, as the overflow from North county into BMC will stress an already “iffy” hospital beyond the point where it can stretch any further. It was hard enough when BMC had to absorb Hillcrest; wait times in the ED grew longer, etc. PIttsfield, if your severe car accident and a Williamstown severe car accident arrive at the BMC ED at the same time and the Williamstown accident is treated first, Pittsfield will be up in arms, feeling like we have seniority/ priority over the incoming communities. I live here, I know us and our zietgeist;this IS how we think. So Pittsfield, sign the petitions, show up at NARH at 9a.m. om Friday morning, and let’s try to maintain what’s left of the communities we have. We can place blame later.

    • danvalenti
      March 26, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

      OUTFOX
      We thank you for your passionate, articulate expressions of concern, of justified outrage. You are right to the extreme: This boils down to the people hurt. The question for those involved in what appears to be at some level a cynical power play is “At what cost do you value the Almighty Dollar over people.” Your post is truly one of the most affecting we have ever published here on THE PLANET. Again, our thanks.

      • outfox
        March 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

        Dan, thank you; this is high praise indeed. Apologies for the mis-spellings, typos and other grammatical errors- That “are” should be “i” in the first paragraph). IN my defense, it was a late night post after a long day of trying to do the little I can to.keep NARH from closing. There is much more to be written on this topic just from a community perspective. I re-iterate, and cannot stress enough, thta this is obscene, and all the affected communities need to be involved, not just North county. And for those of us who are skeptical about the power of the people, I ask you to remember the story of St. Stan’s in Adams!

        • outfox
          March 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

          Should be “is” I meant…

  10. Pat
    March 27, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    I think Martha Coakley, of let the politicians in Mass. do what they want and get away with it Coakley, will attempt to be one of the White Knights since she will running in an election soon and needs votes.

    Also why are Medicare and Medicaid payments so much lower now for hospitals and doctors?

  11. Scott
    March 27, 2014 at 3:40 am #

    Outfox I feel the same way this effects us greatly as well.

    • outfox
      March 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Scott, please encourage your family, friends and co-workers to participate in preventing the closing of NARH. At least later we can say we tried everything…but the potential impact on several of our communities stands to be devastating on many levels. Assuming that you will help, Scott, and others, my family and I thank you deeply.

  12. Scott
    March 27, 2014 at 4:15 am #

    Also I don’t think all the blame is on Obama. He does have some blame where rolling out his health plan is concerned and the fools he gave the contracts to but ultimately all he wants is a fair standard level of care for everyone but the fact remains if everyone’s not on board and doesn’t sign up his plan fails. He was relying too heavily on young healthy people signing up to cover the cost for the old and sick. Americans don’t think like that anymore. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      I agree. President Obama, for all his other faults, cannot be implicated here … or if so, I don’t fully grasp the components of the Affordable Care Act. Payments to small hospitals for Medicaid and Medicare have been cut, granted, but is that a function of the ACA or other factors that preceded it?

  13. Pat
    March 27, 2014 at 4:17 am #

    I just got this infor from a MassLive Article:

    “David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said North Adams Regional Hospital is “the poster child” for a ballot initiative the association is pursuing. The initiative would, among other things, require hospitals earning profits above 8 percent to put that money into a fund that would be available to increase Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals that need it.

    “If we continue to allow this to happen, allow hospitals to close because they serve poor people, we’re saying if you’re rich … we’re going to have a hospital right near you,” Schildmeier said. “If you’re in a poor community, you’ll have to drive in winter on a two-lane road 30 to 40 minutes with a heart attack, good luck to you.”

    It seems that teaching hospitals, which many hospitals in rich areas are calling themselves, get a much higher reimbursement per patient. More like $20,000.00 per patient versus $9,450.00 for patients in lower income community hospitals. Medicaid reimburses community hospitals at a lower rate than teaching hospitals.

  14. amandaWell
    March 27, 2014 at 4:18 am #

    Seems like yesterday ten of thousands of jobs lost at GE. This is a very bad situation in North Adams and all of Berkshire County, like it or not, the Hospital and the fallout that goes with the closing is and will effect the economic structure in that City. With it, crime will go up, drug abuse, panic from short and long term patients, ambulatory problems, acute accident and emergency service will suffer. Job loss is devasting. Where the hell was the warning, aren’t companies supposed to get a grace period for the employees to notify of a closing?This whole thing is fishy at best!

  15. amandaWell
    March 27, 2014 at 4:21 am #

    …..where is the Union Leadership on this.HELLO?

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      AMANDA
      Precisely. Union leadership? Seems to have been a no show. Fair warning from the Trustees? Not there, instead the Ts triggered a heartless shutdown plan. The backlash shocked them.

  16. joetaxpayer
    March 27, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    I read the big sticking point to a BHS NARH merger was who was going to pay off the debt and pensions for employees. If the hospital closes then BHS steps who is going to pay employees pensions and hospitals vendors?

    • Bull Durham
      March 27, 2014 at 7:11 am #

      North Adams Regional said in its first release that pensions would be guaranteed and unaffected by this closure. They went through chapter 11 reorganization a year ago and a bankruptcy court guaranteed the pensions would be paid out no matter what. As to the hospital vendors and any other creditors… if they file for chapter 7, it means liquidation, and any remaining assets would be sold off to the highest bidder, including their property and equipment, and any money generated by that would first go to creditors.

      And a note on pensions, sorry, but what organizations other than government workers still have full pensions? Part of the reason the hospital ended up this much in debt was because they’ve tried over the years to convert the union employees to retirement funds like the rest of us poor slobs. The unions refused and threatened to strike, so they could protect their pensions. The hospital’s pension liability alone is in the tens of millions of dollars.

      • danvalenti
        March 27, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        Great points, BULL. Pensions? Obviously, people who bring this point up have little to no experience with the Dreaded Private Sector. You and I have had such.

  17. Bill Sturgeon
    March 27, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    My heart goes out to the people of North Adams for the loss of their local hospital. As I said yesterday there is enough blame to goes around so for one side to blame the other will not save, if it can be saved, the hospital.

    My suggestion would be to get a mediator (non-governmental) in to sit down and work though the issues. All side MUST know that they will have to sacrifice.

    I would think that very last thing the people of North Adams would want would be for politicians to get involved. I don’t think that politicians can be objective, just my opinion.

    • C.J.
      March 27, 2014 at 5:16 am #

      Interesting comment by a North Adams resident in today’s letter to the BB editor. It sounds like my pet peeve here in Pittsfield. It states the outsiders profited then left the community out to dry. No one seems to care that the City of Pittsfield is the mother load employer for out of state and out of town dept. heads and other municipal employees. They pay no Pittsfield taxes, don’t have to deal with or even see the city’s issues when
      they commute home at night. They earn Pittsfield’s overly generous city pensions and leave any concern for the city in the rear view mirror.
      It’s coming Pittsfield. Unfunded liabilities, fiscal crisis, and the “Out
      of Towners” will be well healed and laughing all the way to their homes and banks.
      Barry C. and Melissa M. : How about a public head count that isn’t paded showing the actual number of City of Pittsfield active employees that reside out of town or state. Think Mr. DeAngelo, a Sheffield resident will cooperate ? What about the school dept ? GE pensioners aren’t going to be able to pay city taxes forever.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

      BILL
      The people deserved MUCH better, much better in an inordinate degree.

  18. joetaxpayer
    March 27, 2014 at 5:06 am #

    Bill agree with your statement about not wanting the government to get involved. But if they bring there check book, I’m sure they will be welcome.

  19. Nota
    March 27, 2014 at 5:26 am #

    Well, do you want to play the blame game or solve the problem? Seems to me it’s a benefit and money issue, all around. Where was the North Adams City Council on this, this might have been brewing for years? WHEN is a high ranking official going to tell us what really happened?

  20. amandaWell
    March 27, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    The beat of the Planets snare drum can be heard from miles around. Again, the Planet will systematically begin to picks up the dreaded pieces and try to put this puzzle together.Again!

  21. Bill Sturgeon
    March 27, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    Joe: If the Gov’t bings the checkbook there will be more strings attached that a puppet show at the park. I would like to see a professional turn around specialist come to NARH and work the magic that it is going to take, but that just me. I do, however, think it can be saved.

  22. Bill Sturgeon
    March 27, 2014 at 5:46 am #

    One last thing before I go. Please stop that hate talk it will accomplish nothing but divide the stakeholder farther apart. No one person or group cause this problem. There are a great many factors that lead to this crisis. Just my opinion. I do, however, want to see NARH saved!

    • Bull Durham
      March 27, 2014 at 7:26 am #

      A voice of reason in a sea of complainers, Bill. Thank you for your level-headed response to this situation. As I’ve said in another post, it’s far too easy to place blame on one party, but there are many, many factors involved in this collapse, and at the end of the day, we all want the hospital to stay open.

      • danvalenti
        March 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

        Yes, and we would include you as well in that same company.

  23. Spider
    March 27, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    A few weeks ago we learned that BMC lost its resident doctors surgical accreditation which it had for years. I don’t buy the story that it was a mistake in paperwork.

    Is this a warning that things are not going well at BMC. Any one have thoughts on this?

    • Thomas More
      March 27, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      MT, What you call Obammacare is in reality a law called the Affordable Care Act. It is designed to level the playing field so that all Americans will have access to good health I grew up in the early ’30s but remember very little of it. I do remember as probably you do too from our history classes the tremendous opposition to the Social Security law. It eventually became accepted and many people now are very thankful for it. The same attitude was held by the conservatives toward the medicare act. It too has become very accepted by most. You appear to be well heeled financially and very educated and not in need of any help from these programs.You should strive to be more tolerant of those who do. We will some day in the future see the Affordable Care Act as acceptable as SS, Medicaid and Medicare.

      BTW Dan, in my last post I mentioned your being at Dotties. It was March 11. We made eye contact and kind of nodded to one another. I was star struck. When I left you were exchanging pleasantries with a mail man.

      • Mad Trapper
        March 27, 2014 at 11:54 am #

        Dear Tommy,

        I grew up very poor. I did not take social assistance in any form.

        I have not relied on unemployment but worked any way I could to support myself.

        I think FDR hurt America rather than helped. Social Security is BANKRUPT. I will be LUCKY to collect, ANY, of what I have contributed.

        Medicare is another morass.

        Obamacare? Ha Ha ha……

        I am not a leach.

        I am not a CRIMINAL AlIEN.

        I worked on a farm, I chopped wood. I sawed lumber. I am sure that I have worked harder in my life than you EVER DREAMED OF.

        My good health is due to hard work,good living , and some good men and women, some at NARH

        Obama is a FRAUD, and I fear for America because of him.

        MT

      • Pat
        March 27, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

        It’s one thing for the federal government to dole out social security checks and quite another to have them involved in healthcare which is much more complicated than social security. Sorry, but there is no comparison between the two.

  24. MrG1188
    March 27, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    Oh the Irony!! Lifted directly from the NARH website “Values” section:

    Our Values:
    Responsible Stewardship: We will be responsible stewards of our resources to serve you, ensure the long-term financial stability of Northern Berkshire Healthcare, reinvest in our staff and facilities, and pursue growth opportunities.

    Impressive Service: We will focus our attention and energies on anticipating and exceeding your expectations.

    Successful Relationships: We will promote relationships of trust, confidence, and loyalty through the quality of our services, the honesty of our staff, and involvement in our community.

    Exceptional Quality: We will be relentless in pursuing the highest standard of quality through continuous improvement, emphasizing the power of teamwork.

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Talk about having to “eat your words.”

  25. MrG1188
    March 27, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    OK…Super-quick digging yielded an annual report for 2006..Dated obviously. Below is the financial stuff, shockingly paltry, then a quick extrapolation:
    Financial Report – Fiscal Year 2006
    Northern Berkshire Healthcare

    FY 2006 FY 2005
    TOTAL REVENUE 75,196,957 72,522,066
    EXPENSES
    Wages and Salaries 44,611,917 45,779,080
    Supplies and Other Expenses 22,036,397 22,766,632
    Depreciation and Interest 7,069,217 6,932,665
    Uncompensated Care and Bad Debt 2,430,346 1,819,126
    Total Expenses 76,147,877 77,297,503
    Non-operating Income (Expense) 732,058 (70,287)
    EXCESS EXPENSES OVER REVENUES (218,862) (4,845,724)

    So in 2006 they LOST $219k. Year before they lost $5 MILLION Bucks?!?! I guess, from some standpoint, this was a ?well-managed year. One VERY revealing thing though; If you do a quick calculation taking the TOTAL Wages & salaries and divide by 500 ( probably a similar employment number to current levels) you get an AVERAGE salary of $91,558. I think if anyone had bothered to analyze these numbers they would have seen one absolute fact, that per capita compensation is too high for an institution losing millions per year, and then would have had to conclude that one of two things must be happening; either EVERYONE is overpaid, or a few people at/near the top are WILDLY overpaid, enough to skew the average that badly. WHat were the doards of Directors and Trustees doing?!?!

    • Bull Durham
      March 27, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      It’s easy to yell and scream and claim ‘the administrators’ made all of that money, but it’s not true. The Mass. Nurses Association received contracts that provided their nurses with huge salary increases, a full pension and tremendous benefits. Yes, there was certainly mismanagement along the way at the top (his name was Cronin, by the way and he gave away the store to the two unions because he didn’t like ‘conflict’), but the holier than thou MNA is now claiming it had nothing to do with this collapse, and it had everything to do with it.

      I know many nurses at NARH, and they are exceptional people, and I frankly think a nurse deserves a very decent paycheck for what they do. But I also live in North Adams, and I know the average person there earns a paltry income, and the salaries earned by the nurses is more than fair – in fact, the average nursing salary at NARH was close to $100,000 a year. When you factor in overtime, and they all get it here and there, that salary escalates. Add in the pension, a guaranteed yearly ‘salary’ after retirement – the MNA nurses are not poor.

      At the end of the day, this was caused by multiple factors. Corporate mismanagement dating back years, high salaries all around (except for those in the lower end, housekeepers, etc.), a federal and state reimbursement system that intentionally pays far less than the cost of providing care, private insurers demanding cuts in their reimbursements and then pocketing the profits (please, take one look at what Blue Cross ‘earned’ in the past few years and paid out to their own executives), and a market where the vast majority of patients are low income and are on Medicare or Medicaid.

      As I said, easy to blame ‘one party’ for this mess, but it’s far more complex than this.

      • MrG1188
        March 27, 2014 at 7:39 am #

        Thanks Bull…As I said in my post; it was one of two things; either the administrators/executives were WILDLY overpain, enough to skew the entire number, or many workers earned MUCH more than the average North Adams compensation level. As this indicates, the AVERAGE salary/wage was $91,000. to get to that there would have had to be a bunch of administrators and doctors making $300k++, OR a couple of hundred nurses earning $90k. A combination of the two with slightly adjusted numbers, as you posit, seems reasonable to surmise.

      • b_ball8
        March 27, 2014 at 10:00 am #

        Well said Bull… you “get it”.

      • Pat
        March 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

        I agree health care is complex which is why the federal goverment shouldn’t be involved in it. Federal government is great at doling out social security checks, but there are no similarties between health care and social security. Health care is VERY INVOLVED AND COMPLEX. Look what happened when the feds tried getting involved in the mortgage industry. Need I say more?

      • joetaxpayer
        March 28, 2014 at 5:40 am #

        Very well said, also doesn’t help that they have a 109 bed hospital in a community that only needs 50.

  26. Mad Trapper
    March 27, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Staff and facilities were top notch every time I needed treatment.

    [THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST IS REDACTED: POSTER IS WARNED TO KEEP COMMENTS TO THE ISSUE AT HAND AND THE TONE CIVIL. THREATS, IMPLIED OR OTHERWISE, WILL NOT BE ALLOWED]

    • dusty
      March 27, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Knowing ahead of time that the whole thing was going to blow up the administrators probably secured positions for themselves elsewhere so they could slide right into them. Often times executives who screw up seem quite welcome elsewhere.

      • danvalenti
        March 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

        You raise the classic question: Who knew what, when, and what did they do with that knowledge? That’s the one question no one apparently wants to answer. Why?

  27. Rafael
    March 27, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    Obviously, NARH has has financial difficulties for many years, therefore anyone blaming this on Obamacare is smoking something.
    Unions are part of the problem (pensions just are not sustainable) but any contract with the nurses, or other union employees must be approved by administration and they all knew very well this would come to a head eventually. They were getting big paychecks so likely did not care.
    It comes down to bad management. It always does when a company this large with a long history fails.
    What’s next? The gov’t bailout of NARH, paid for by us taxpayers.

  28. Ron Kitterman
    March 27, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Agree with Bill Sturgeon’s statement totally leave the politicans out of it. There are several ways the progressive politicans could help if they really looked for cuts to make in the budget. For starters why not put the Taconic High School project on hold, there are three Registries of Deeds in Berkshire County, why not consolidate to 1. Eliminate the Northern RMV office wasn’t that long ago the Southern office was closed, probably a pay back to Chris Hodgins or someone back then. Consolidate the emergency dispatch centers into the BCHC. The list could go on and on but those things will never happen.

    • Mad Trapper
      March 27, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Sure Ron, going to drive me to the RMV in Springfield?

      Tried to call the RMV???? Try, Ron.

      You cannot.

      Why do we pay for this incompetence?

      You give a reason for such GOOBERment consolidation.

      But the RESULT is more fees for LESS SERVICE.

      I’d feel safer without a RMV.

      • joetaxpayer
        March 27, 2014 at 10:42 am #

        I too was hoping for hope and change. only to get Obama . Nuff said!!”"”"God help us all!

    • joetaxpayer
      March 27, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Ron, like your line of thinking. We are a county of 130,000. Why not consolidate as many services as possible. Does every town need a senior center, dispatchers and libraries. We have a jail on Cheshire Road. that’s only half filled. Why not let other Berkshire towns use it to hold prisoners.

  29. ed shepardson
    March 27, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE, MARCH 6, 2014-The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, already the largest contemporary art museum in the world, got some good news this week as the House of Representatives voted to support a $25.4 million grant to help pay for the latest round of renovations and expansion within its 16-acre campus in North Adams.

    • joetaxpayer
      March 27, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      Ed personally worked on the different phases since around 2010 haven’t seen a job mismanaged in my 30 years of construction. It is the mini*dig.

      • ed shepardson
        March 27, 2014 at 9:53 am #

        Huh?

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      Talk about having priorities mixed up. Great contribution, ED.

  30. joetaxpayer
    March 27, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    More mismanaged

  31. joetaxpayer
    March 27, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Sorry Ed got my art museum’s mixed up. I was talking about the Clark. I’m sure they are getting there’s too.

    • ed shepardson
      March 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Double huh?

  32. Carolyn Barry
    March 27, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    I would love to see Holly Taylor (former Eagle reporter) do an article on this. Maybe she can stop selling insurance for a short time. She did an awesome job years ago with her articles on John Johnson.

  33. B
    March 27, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Obamacare had nothing to do with NARH. It was most likely the administration who gave themselves huge bonuses and never did cutbacks. That reminds me of the city of Pittsfield; give all the money to the school department that just waste it, watch a mayor with a nice salary who just walks across the street and works for someone else. There is no one watching our house.

    • Mad Trapper
      March 27, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Yes, Mayor of Pittsfield has been AWOL since he started.

      Perhaps worse than the last, GOB, ROBBERto.

      We have Mel Maz, whose husband seems to be a THUG.

      A City Council that is impotent.

      And a School Committee that is stupid , if not corrupt.

      But, YOU voted for them all………got what you deserved.

  34. outfox
    March 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    “Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
    Filling out forms
    Standing in line…

    And it’s getting very hard to stay here
    in Allentown”

    —Billy Joel, “Allentown”

    We are Allentown today.

  35. amandaWell
    March 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Esteemed Councilor Barry Clairmont..what’s your take on this? I like Barry!

  36. B. Clairmont
    March 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    Discussion tonight on school bus financing and the FY 2013 audit. Chanel 18 at 7:00pm. Know what happens to YOUR money.

  37. Mark
    March 27, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Scott…right on, if it is not a profitable business, then yes everyone should get nothing. Unfortunately we’re seeing this all too often, Struggling business not making money but somehow the fat cats upstairs get fatter.

    JB…yes the union has to protect the slugs, it is a necessary evil, that’s why unions need to police their own, it can be done.

  38. eddiep
    March 27, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    John Johnson..wasn’t he the administraitor of BHS who made secret loans without telling the board and built the palace on Charles St. in Pittsfield?
    That caper almost bankrupted the corp.
    He left rather quickly and a couple years later was named administrator of the year.

  39. Mark
    March 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    The Sturgeon General…although old and fat, as self proclaimed, you can be the voice of reason,. my brother! I thought you looked good with DV on tv!

  40. Pat
    March 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I totally disagree with these people saying the Obama administration is not contributing to the problems with our local community hospitals in poor areas. Lots of hospitals have had financial problems but up until now NARH was able to stay open. With Obamacare coming on the scene you will see more of this happening across the country. Healthcare will need to be consolidated so that only large institutions will be able to survive. Lower reimbursements across the board due to Obamacare will create conglomerates of healthcare and the smaller fish will not be able to survive. Do you really think all these smaller hospitals across the country will be able to hold their own? Not likely. People will have to get used to traveling long distances for their healthcare because it won’t be all about convenience anymore, but it will be all about efficiency and keeping a very budgeted health care machine in place.

    Just as Downing and Pignatelli were talking in Lenox last week about how many town services across Berkshire County will need to be consolidated in order to keep down costs, the same thing will need to happen in order to keep healthcare costs down or the country will go bankrupt. People are just not seeing the bigger picture here.

  41. I Care About Pittsfield
    March 27, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Bill Sturgeon, Bull D and other voices of reason. Please continue to contribute. Mad Trapper, we get it. We got it the first time. Stop the threats. Reason logic and calm are the needed elements toi the discussion now since there’s so much, too much, emotion.

    Don’t get me wrong. I understand emotion. But it cant be allowed to boil over and cloud good thinking.

    I thank Mr. Valenti for trying to keep discussion at a high level.Please everyone, follow suit.

  42. amandaWell
    March 27, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Barry is kicking ass at the Finance Committee Meeting, don’t know how he’ll vote. Did hear that a Million and a half is still owed on the current Bus Loans? Nine year old Buses?

    • danvalenti
      March 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      That info is galling. They owe $1.5 million on the borrowed money for the soon-to-be-ditched bus fleet? Actually, the buses are 2007 models. That makes then seven years old.

      • B. Clairmont
        March 27, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

        Dan,

        It turns out the 2007 model buses went into service in February 2006, so I’m told. That makes them 8 years one month old. I asked because the math didn’t work for me either. I’m told the plan is for 5 years on the new fleet. But, the financing will be determined later. If it goes over 5 years, I will not be happy. But who cares if I’m happy, right?

        • danvalenti
          March 27, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

          Thanks, BARRY, for clarifying one of the oddities of this proposed purchase. The fine print in the supporting documents of your packet, presumably written by Kristen Behnke, calls for bonding for five years. I’m not convinced the city needs these buses. If so, it appears it got a back deal on the trade-invalue. I’m with you that IF this goes through — hard to justify when what the city is belt tightening and a REDUCTION in the budget — it had better not be more than five years. As it is, bonding will add at least $100,000 to the price.

  43. Nota
    March 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    They should have made Mrs. Behnke Superintendent of Pittsfield Schools. She’s running circles around this Council.

  44. outfox
    March 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    In a fine example of an elected official doing what she is elected to do, and said in the press that she would do for us North county residents, GailAnne Cariddi phoned my mother (and probably many other constituents) this afternoon. She did not offer us empty promises or false hopes, but did express confidence that we will have available hospital care here in North county, and also cautioned us that it will be a different entity than the NARH we know today. That’s cool; we’re willing to adapt…She also made it clear that local politicians were as blindsided by this decision as the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, some thirty years ago, I made my home in the high rise dormitories of Temple University in Philadelphia, where my dorm-mates were from Levittown and Kutztown and Bethlehem and Allentown. Often, these young men and women turned out to be the first in their families to be attending college, and thus, their family success story; almost all of them were the sons and daughters of American steel…The Billy Joel song “Allentown” was blowing up the airwaves that year, and my friends told me how much that song was reviled in Bethlehem and Allentown. “That’s NOT us,” they told me. “It doesn’t describe who we are.” My one friend from Western Pennsylvania told me stories of walking to and from school over the coal burning just under the surface of the ground, so hot under her feet that at times it turned the ground to glass. I told her stories of roaring bonfires in the woods of rural Massachusetts, where the next morning we could see that the fire had burned so hot that it had turned the ground to glass. At the time, looking back now, it seems to me that we believed the closings in Pennsylvania were merely an aberration rather than a portent of what was to come, this ground of fragile glass upon which rests the American economy of today.

    The reason my college friends denied the Billy Joel song as an apt descriptor of their lives is that they were, above all, the sons and daughters of something equally as American and homegrown as coal and steel— they were the sons and duaghters of mettle.

    It is that same mettle I find here in North county as we face this healthcare crisis. The speed with which the communities here came together in attempt to save what we have some might say is astounding, but ’round these parts, it’s a given. I saw it happen in the vigil at St. Stan’s, where we attended the last ever Christmas Eve Mass and on the way out made a donation to the parishioners passing the hat in order to raise money for a canonical lawyer. A handful of faithful in the middle of nowhere, really,took on the Vatican and prevailed. That’s mettle. I saw this same quality when I attended the homecoming of Pfc.DeMarsico, where in the crowd around me—three and four people deep, I’m talking— the conversations were local and summery, about lawncare and one another’s children, but when the radio on the belt of the cop standing near us squawked, “Private First Class Demarsico has arrived home” and through the static you could hear the voice of the cop on the radio break into tears, and the crowd fell silent…that’s mettle.

    As of now, we only have ER services through next Thursday, if my reading of the latest dispatches is correct, and as some questions are answered many more arise, but come what may, we’ve got mettle…

    • b_ball8
      March 28, 2014 at 4:35 am #

      Don’t fool yourself- there is no doubt all of the local/ state and some federal politicians were well aware of the situation/ crisis and that this was a potential outcome if a buyout or temporary aid was not provided very quickly. There is a remote possibility that they did not know the exact timing that any announcement would be made… but make no mistake about it… they knew this unfortunate outcome was on the horizon, and if they were “blindsided” it was because they had blinders on.