Lawmakers representing the western area of Massachusetts affected by the imminent closure of North Adams Hospital huddled on Wednesday as hospital supporters planned to meet and discuss ways to save the facility and the state's largest health care union called the crisis "indicative of significant problems and disparities within the broader Massachusetts health care financing system." According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, concerned residents and advocates plan an emergency meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the American Legion in North Adams to discuss next steps in an effort to save the hospital from closure on Friday. The nurses association urged residents to call Gov. Deval Patrick and "tell him that the closing of these services represents a disaster for our community" while urging him to travel to North Adams and prevent the closure. The state's largest health care union, 1199SEIU, which represents nearly 200 workers at the hospital, issued a statement saying the closure is "unacceptable." Veronica Turner, executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, said, "Community hospitals in Massachusetts are in crisis largely as a result of low Medicaid rates and the disproportionately higher commercial payments made to higher-cost hospitals.


Healthcare workers are calling on state officials to immediately intervene and protect the vital, cost-effective services provided by North Adams Regional Hospital. This is a potentially devastating development for patients and workers alike. This is a matter of life and death for many in the impacted communities who could lose access to emergency hospital services. A solution simply must be found." - M. Norton/SHNS


The Governor's Council on Wednesday approved Tina Hurley to a Parole Board seat in her second go-around in a little more than a decade, and reappointed James Rose to the Appellate Tax Board. Councilor Marilyn Devaney voted against the Hurley appointment, making a statement - disputed by her colleagues - that while Hurley is qualified for the post, she believes the nomination process was improper. "Miss Hurley is qualified and did not need to use this political process to get the job," said Devaney, who claimed she had been told by the governor's chief legal counsel that Hurley was the only person interviewed for the job. "She was not the only candidate interviewed," Patrick said before the 6-1 vote. "I was told by legal counsel," Devaney said. "Actually, you weren't," Patrick replied. Devaney did not go into specifics about the politicking she believes was afoot in Hurley's appointment, but the claims were met with refutations by councilors Jennie Caissie, Michael Albano, and Robert Jubinville, who said he encouraged Hurley to apply, who all praised Hurley as well. "I know people want to grandstand. They want to get their quotes in the paper, and they want to make it sound like things weren't done right. Sometimes they're not done right; in this case I think things were done right," Caissie said before the vote. Hurley was unanimously rejected by the council when Gov. Mitt Romney nominated her for the Parole Board in 2003. Hurley, who is a hearing examiner for the Parole Board, told the council in her interview that she took the advice of the council after her rejection, developing a women offenders program. Albano said Hurley would be back before the board shortly for a reappointment, as the term she is filling out expires soon. - A.Metzger/SHNS


The House on Wednesday approved an order (H 3986) calling for amendments to legislation (H 3983) raising the minimum wage and overhauling unemployment insurance to be filed by 5 p.m. Friday. Debate on the bill is expected in the House next Wednesday. "It's a bill that all of us have been expecting," said Rep. George Peterson (R-Grafton), who lost his bid for an amendment deadline of Monday at 1 p.m. The bill has been expanded by the House to include policy proposals addressing rights and protections for domestic workers. Rep. Garrett Bradley opposed a Monday amendment deadline, saying the House Ways and Means Committee and members of the House need time to review amendments to the bill. Rep. Shaunna O'Connell said "there seems to be no urgency" about a welfare reform bill that's been before a conference committee for more than four months and questioned the need for a Friday deadline on a bill that won't be debated until next Wednesday. - M. Norton/SHNS