GREAT BARRINGTON – Fairview Hospital is planning to expand access and improve care in South County with the help of a $99,871 Health and Human Services grant.
The improvements, according to Doreen Hutchinson, the hospital’s vice president of operations, will include creating an expanded network that comprises two major partners and 10 smaller ones.
“Access to population health is often an overlooked aspect of the right to health,” Hutchinson said in a grant announcement speech. “Without practical access, the right to health is an empty promise.”
Filling the access gap, Hutchinson said, will be addressed with the grant money.
According to her, the grant will fund a “gap analysis:” The money will help Fairview assess what they can offer their future partners and what their future partners can offer them.
“It’s a matter of what are the resources we have and what we are missing,” Hutchinson said in a later interview with The Record. “How are we going to be more efficient? We have to pay attention to not duplicating.”
“If you take the 12 groups, we all do something but we all don’t do everything,” Dr. Brian Burke, Fariview’s chief of medical staff, said.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, announced the grant, in part, July 6. He was accompanied by state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and a throng of hospital staff.
“I’ve spent a career supporting these hospitals,” Neal said to a conference room full of people. “Rural hospitals are a real challenge.”
Neal, the lead Democrat for the House Ways and Means Committee, said hospitals like Fairview are necessary across the nation and help stabilize areas that otherwise would lack healthcare options.
“We really worked hard here,” Neal said of the grant and of Fairview. “There is an importance of rural healthcare… in rural America it’s an acute problem.”
Eugene Dellea, the president of Fairview, said Neal had done an excellent job representing both the county and the hospital: “Aren’t we fortunate to have the congressman here?” he asked the crowd that had assembled. “He’s been an advocate for Fairview.”
During Pignatelli’s speech, the state representative echoed Neal, saying the new grant would “lead to great things.”
“The grant recognizes Fairview as the lead hospital,” Pignatelli said. “There’s nobody better.”
Hutchinson said the partnerships are “not new.” Rather, she said, the partners have a track record of “developed relationships” and have worked well together in the past.
The money will also be used to create a, as Hutchinson described it, “convener” position. The convener, she said, would help bring the total 12 partners together for discussions and further planning.
“We can pool resources,” Burke said. “People won’t fall through the cracks.”
Burke also said the money – and in turn Fairview’s planning – will look closely at the “health of the community” as a whole. The analysis will take into account transportation, cost, local food supply, among other things.
“We have to consider things that can happen in homes,” Burke said. “The social determinants of healthcare have to be focused on.”
Other partners in the planned expanded network include Berkshire Medical Center Psychiatric Services, Berkshire South Community Center, the Railroad Street Youth Project, Multicultural BRIDGE, the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and Canyon Ranch.
This story first ran in the Berkshire Record.