A state superior court judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing North Adams Regional Hospital from closing its emergency department, which was scheduled to be shut Friday, but not halting the closure of the rest of the 109-bed community hospital.
Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini made his ruling Thursday afternoon in response to an injunction request from state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. The order will remain in effect until April 3, when the judge will hear arguments for a permanent injunction, which could keep emergency services in North Adams for patients in nine rural northwestern Massachusetts communities who have been served by the hospital for 129 years.
The temporary order said the emergency department must stay open until the North Adams hospital complies with a state Department of Public Health regulation requiring it to give a 90 days notice before shutting its doors unless the hospital runs out of money. The judge also directed the 302-bed Berkshire Medical Center, about 20 miles away, to seek a license to operate a North Adams emergency room as a satellite to its larger emergency department in Pittsfield.
Until that license is granted, North Adams Regional Hospital “is taking the necessary steps to comply with today’s court decision,” its parent company said in a statement. “The (hospital) Emergency Department will remain open with staffing including emergency physicians, registered nurses, lab, medical imaging and pharmacy services, as well as necessary support staff.”
The statement warned, however, that “we are now working to assemble staffing and ensure that we have necessary supplies — neither of which is guaranteed. We are also required to keep operating until we exhaust the organization’s funds, raising the possibility of running out of money while patients are in our facility. At this time there has been no offer of additional funding from any source.”
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