- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) - The Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington is ready to serve more patients after the closing of a nearby Massachusetts hospital, officials at the Vermont hospital said.

The financially troubled North Adams Regional Hospital closed last week and now the Bennington hospital, about 18 miles from North Adams, is the closest hospital for many people in northwestern Massachusetts.

Bennington hospital medical director Dr. Trey Dobson says the hospital is preparing to expand service immediately in its emergency department.

“We’ve made sure that we have enough staff to cover about 30 extra deliveries per month,” Dobson told Vermont Public Radio (https://bit.ly/1gHn00b). “Which would be on the upper end of what we would expect from North Adams, if every patient were to come to SVMC.”

Dobson said his hospital can treat more emergency room patients, but expanding primary care services will be more difficult.

“We don’t have unlimited capacity in primary care. What we’re trying to do is explore ways to keep our primary care offices open greater hours,” he said. “Maybe extend those hours over the weekend, as well as setting up some walk-in clinics.”

Northern Berkshire Healthcare, which owns the hospital, a visiting nurse and hospice group, and three medical practices, announced last week that it would shut down Friday.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office would conduct an investigation into the actions that led to the closure.

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Information from: WVPS-FM, https://www.vpr.net

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