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Berkshire Medical Center agrees to buy former North Adams hospital building

Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield has agreed to purchase the building and grounds of the former North Adams Regional Hospital as part of a broader deal reached in US Bankruptcy Court that would reopen the North Adams emergency room next month.

The agreement, unveiled Thursday at a court hearing in Springfield, would also cover a separate building the North Adams hospital had owned near Harriman-and-West Airport that houses a small doctors practice previously acquired by the 302-bed Berkshire Medical Center.

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While the deal sets out a timetable that would create a satellite emergency department in northern Berkshire County the week of May 19 — initially under a 90-day occupancy and use pact — details on how many doctors and nurses would be hired and what services would be provided remain to be worked out, the parties said.

“We serve the whole county already,” said Michael Leary, a spokesman for the Pittsfield hospital’s parent, Berkshire Health Systems.

“The way we look at this is not expanding our reach but restoring emergency services to northern Berkshire County. That’s what our goal is.”

North Adams Regional Hospital executives abruptly shut down the financially troubled 109-bed hospital March 28, leaving nine rural communities in Northwestern Massachusetts without access to a nearby hospital — for the first time since 1883. Over the past month, local, state, and court officials have been negotiating with Berkshire Medical and labor unions that represent nurses and others who had worked in North Adams about reopening the emergency department.

Berkshire Medical officials did not disclose the proposed purchase price in their agreement, but said it would be detailed in public court filings in coming days.

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Beyond the purchase price, hospital officials said they would have to invest $10 million in required repairs and improvements to the North Adams hospital building.

But if the agreement is approved by the court, Berkshire Medical would not have to assume the debt of the North Adams hospital.

The Pittsfield hospital has obtained a state license to operate in North Adams, but a final agreement is subject to approval of the bankruptcy judge, Henry Boroff, who will have at least 45 days to seek other bidders. If there are other bidders, the properties would be put up for auction.

David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said he regarded the 45-day period as a “legal formality” and does not expect additional bidders.

He said union leaders are in talks with Berkshire Medical about how many nurses will be rehired. Beyond that, he said, the union is working with community leaders on a plan to reopen the entire hospital.

“We don’t yet know the size and scope of the emergency department,” Schildmeier said.

“But establishing an emergency department in North Adams is the first step. We’re going to advocate, with the community, for the restoration of the full-service hospital.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.

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