Healthcare: Berkshire Orthopedics affiliates with BHS

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PITTSFIELD — One of the county's leading providers of orthopedic services has entered into an affiliation with the Berkshire's largest employer, Berkshire Health Systems.

Berkshire Orthopedic Associates, located in the Crane Center for Ambulatory Surgery on Park Street, had previously been a private community practice that collaborated with BHS. Under that designation, its staffers were considered to be members of the BHS medical staff, and could perform procedures at BHS-owned facilities like Berkshire Medical Center.

As a legal affiliate of BHS, Berkshire Orthopedic Associates can now work more closely with the county's largest employer on recruitment of medical personnel. Berkshire Orthopedic Associates can also take advantage of BHS's support system, which increases the practice's financial stability and provides investments to help it succeed over the long term in the ever changing world of health care.

"There are limits to what you can do when you're separate," said BHS spokesman Michael Leary.

"What this allows us to do is work even more closely to strengthen our partnership and programs to support our patients and support their partnership and recruitment ," said Ruth Blodgett, Berkshire Health Systems' senior vice president for physician services.

NO CHANGES

The new affiliation will have no effect on Berkshire Orthopedic Associates' daily operations and patients will see no difference in the relationship with the practices' six current physicians, Kevin Mitts, Jeffrey Cella, Anthony DeFelice, Mark Sprague, Michael Noncallas and David Grygier. Berkshire Orthopedics will continue to see patients at its current space in Pittsfield and at the doctor's building at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington. But it now has a third location, at a new office at the North Adams campus of Berkshire Medical Center. Two new orthopedic surgeons are also expected to join the practice during the next few months.

Berkshire Orthopedic Associates provides comprehensive orthopedic services that include surgical and non-surgical approaches, advanced joint replacement for knees, hips , shoulders, and ankles, specialized hand surgery and rehabilitatiob care. Physicans are assisted by a team of phyisican assistants.

Mitts, the division chief of orthopedics at BMC, could not be reached for comment. But in a statement, Mitts said the affiliation with BHS will allow Berkshire Orthopedic Associates to "preserve and strengthen" the availability of orthopedic services across the entire county.

"In addition, this agreement gives us critical access to a number of support services, including assistance in recruiting physicians and other providers to serve our community's orthopedic needs," he said.

The changes in health care policy and in health insurance reimbursements have made it more difficult for private physician practices to remain viable.

"It's harder and harder for a private practice to stay independent given the current reimbursement system in health care," Blodgett said. "A lot of them want to be part of a system with resources and what a support system offers so they can concentrate on their patient practice."

Affiliations like the one between BHS and Berkshire Orthopedic Associates are not unique to Berkshire County.

"It's happening all over the United States," Blodgett said.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at 413 496-6224.




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