WILLIAMSTOWN --Williamstown Medical Associates has entered into an affiliation agreement with Berkshire Heath Systems, which will allow the physician's group to strengthen and increase the services it provides while lessening its administrative and financial burdens, according to health care officials.
"Our patients shouldn't see any difference in our day-to-day operations," said Dr. Anthony Smeglin, president of Williamstown Medical Associates, on Thursday. "It's all about enhancing and sustaining the levels of patient care. This affiliation with Berkshire Health Systems will help us continue to not only serve our patients, but to do it better. We will have assistance in recruiting new physicians and health care providers, access to critical support services and improve our electronic health records and telecommunications systems."
Williamstown Medical, which has offices in Williamstown and at the Ambulatory Care Center at North Adams Regional Hospital, has 19 providers -- physicians, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners and specialists -- who serve 12,000 patients in Northern Berkshire County.
Smeglin said the affiliation is an important move in ensuring the group's financial sustainability.
"There have been numerous increases in administrative and regulatory requirements, as well as the pressure of [getting adequate] reimbursements from private and public health insurances," Smeglin said. "Having the desire to improve the care we provide and the coordination of that care, we need to affiliate and collaborate with larger health care entities. We have been talking [about affiliating] with various potential health care organizations across New England for several years. Berkshire Health Systems became an obvious choice and we began talks a few months ago."
Darlene Rodowicz, chief financial officer for Berkshire Health Systems, said the affiliation has mutual benefits for both organizations.
"For us, it helps ensure there is an adequate supply of physicians in the region," she said. "Williamstown Medical has a long history of providing quality service to patients in Northern Berkshire. Like any health care organization, we have a co-dependent relationship with the physicians' groups in our region. Without those physicians' groups, we can't provide quality care to the community."
Rodowicz added, "It also allows us to assist them with investments, such as updating their electronic physicians records, recruitment and in the ramping up of the practices of the individual providers. We expect everything to remain in place, whether it's in the Williamstown or North Adams offices or at North Adams Regional Hospital. Berkshire Medical Center has some specialists that will be able to provide services to Williamstown Medical patients, in Pittsfield and in the future, in North County."
The affiliation, which went into effect Dec. 31, included the sale of the Williamstown Medical Associates building at 197 Adams Road. According to documents filed with the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds, the building was sold by WMA Realty Partners LLP to BHS Management Services Inc. for $2.5 million on Dec. 31. The 10,000-square-foot building, which opened in 2008, cost $2 million to build and replaced its previous 50-year-old building. It is being leased back to the practice.
According to Smeglin, the purchase of the building helps relieve the practice of the burden of maintaining it and will allow those resources to be allocated to other needs.
"It helps to make sure we'll be here in the future," he said. "This isn't something that happened relatively fast. It was done in a meaningful and thoughtful way."
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