Berkshire Health rating affirmed at 'AA-' as it returns to near pre-pandemic financial health

Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Health Systems saw its credit rating affirmed at "AA-" as it continues to recover from COVID-19 pandemic effects with relatively robust results, Fitch Ratings said Jan. 24.

After reporting an operating loss in fiscal 2020, Berkshire recorded an operating gain of $20.1 million in 2021 and $12.1 million in 2022, according to Fitch. The rating affirmation refers both to overall debt and a specific set of $56 million bonds.

In addition, Berkshire continues to enjoy dominant market share as the only provider of acute care in its primary service area.

While declaring the system's outlook as stable, Fitch noted one slight area of concern —  a delay in two major capital projects. That said, any extension of debt, such as the roughly $60 million to be spent on the potential expansion of the health system's Fairview Hospital, for example, should be absorbed relatively easily by Berkshire.

Berkshire operates two acute care hospitals in western Massachusetts — Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield with 298 licensed acute care beds and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington 20 miles south — a critical access hospital with 25 available acute care beds. The system also operates a freestanding emergency department.

BHS, which reported approximately $777 million in operating revenues in 2022, finalized a 15 percent pay increase for nurses in November and said in December it would lay off 94 workers.

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