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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

After Mass. Hospital Closure, SVMC Gears Up For Influx Of Patients

With the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital in Massachusetts, some patients may come to Vermont for care at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

Now, the hospital is gearing up for a potential influx of new patients.

Though it’s across the state line, SVMC is now the closest hospital to North Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts. And with the abrupt closure of the North Adams hospital last week, many patients are wondering where to turn.

Dr. Trey Dobson is the director of medicine at SVMC in Bennington. He says the hospital is preparing to expand service immediately in two areas: the emergency department and OB-GYN services.

“We’ve made sure that we have enough staff to cover about 30 extra deliveries per month,” said Dobson. “Which would be on the upper end of what we would expect from North Adams, if every patient were to come to SVMC”

He says his staff has been working with North Adams to get patient’s medical records sent over.

Dobson stresses that SVMC can treat more emergency room patients, but expanding primary care services will present a greater challenge.

“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,” said Dobson.  “Maybe extend those hours over the weekend, as well as setting up some walk-in clinics.”

"We don't have unlimited capacity in primary care." -Dr. Trey Dobson, SVMC

Another potential hurdle is health insurance. Dobson says the hospital is able to accept most Massachusetts health care plans, but not all.

Patients in non-emergency situations are encouraged to call ahead and make sure.

“They have a different insurance system because it’s a different state,” said Dobson.  “And so we’re working with those insurance providers to help make sure that we can take care of those patients.”

But news from North Adams keeps changing. While caregivers and community members campaign to restore services at North Adams Regional, there’s currently no funding available to run the facility.

Dobson says SVMC will also look to see what employment opportunities his hospital can offer.

“We’ve been in touch with both physicians and clinicians such as nursing, to offer up job fairs to come to SVMC and see what openings we can make for them,” said Dobson.

He says the changing nature of the situation has made planning a challenge.

Berkshire Medical Center in nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts is also working to close the gap in medical services for the community.

Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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