- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. (AP) - North Adams Regional Hospital and related medical services in the western Massachusetts town will close beginning on Friday, the company that owns them said Tuesday.

The Berkshire Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1l1TcM3) the closings will leave 530 full- and part-time workers without jobs and thousands of patients seeking alternatives. The health care businesses serve northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts and nearby rural areas of Vermont and New York state.

Parent company Northern Berkshire Healthcare said its trustees made the decision based on its “worsening financial status.” The hospital emerged from bankruptcy in 2012. A spokesman said employees got the news Tuesday afternoon and the company said it will help laid off workers file for unemployment benefits.

“Board members, management, physicians, and employees have worked together with dedication and commitment to prevent this outcome,” trustees chairwoman Julia Bolton said in a statement. “But now, given our finances and the daunting challenges that small rural community hospitals are facing in this healthcare environment, we can no longer continue.”

NBH President and CEO Timothy Jones said it is working to transition patients to other providers in the region.

“The implications of this decision are far-reaching, but our primary concern is for our patients,” Jones said. He said the hospital opened in 1885 and has served the area for 129 years “with dedication and pride.”

NBH also includes the Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, and Northern Berkshire Physicians Group, which includes Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, Northern Berkshire OB/GYN, and Northern Berkshire General Surgery.

David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said it questions if the company followed state regulations on the closing. “We are meeting with all relevant public officials, working with others in the community and exploring every legal avenue open to us to save this hospital, or to at least ensure a safe transition for our patients,” he said.

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