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Residents worried about E.J. Noble Hospital

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GOUVERNEUR — Residents are worried about E.J. Noble Hospital and frustrated by deficiencies in its lab, which was closed by the state Department of Health on Sept. 28.

“It’s an awful thing,” Denise A. Andrews, Gouverneur, said Saturday while attending the community’s Oktoberfest in the village park. “I’d like them to work their problems out so they can reopen.”

Nancy L. Dunkelberg, Gouverneur, said she was sorry for everyone involved, including the 70 employees out of work because the closure of the lab meant the shutdown of inpatient care, surgeries and the emergency room.

The Health Department is reviewing proposals from Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, and Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, to supervise lab operations at E.J. Noble, which could preface a reopening of the hospital.

“I just feel bad about it. Gouverneur needs a hospital in case of emergency,” Mrs. Dunkelberg said. “People need to get back to work. There’s not a lot of work around.”

The hospital is vital to the community, said Lorraine W. Taylor, Fowler.

Her granddaughter spent Saturday morning in the emergency room of Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Ogdensburg, because of stomach pain.

“If E.J. Noble had been open, she would have been here,” Mrs. Taylor said.

While she wanted the hospital reopened, Mrs. Taylor said, she has mixed feelings about the care it administers.

She commended the staff for saving the life of her husband when he was brought to the emergency room.

“Had they not stabilized him, I may have lost him because he had a stroke,” she said.

Still, Mrs. Taylor said, some issues have bothered her.

“I’ve witnessed many things through the years I didn’t think were quite right,” she said. “It would be nice if this brings things to light. Maybe everything will get better.”

Bud F. Bice, Macomb, has had lab work done at the hospital every three months for the past six years and has seen many a staff member come and go.

“If they get a quality lab tech, they get offered more money somewhere else and they’re gone,” he said. “I don’t want the hospital closed. There’s so many patients. They service a big area.”

Mr. Bice blamed administrators for the shutdown.

“They’re the big bosses,” he said. “They should have kept track of what was going on and whoever screwed up should have been let go. It’s too bad it went to pieces.”

Linda J. Gilbo, Richville, who worked in the hospital kitchen 25 years ago, said E.J. Noble has always been on the fiscal cliff.

“Back then, it was cash on delivery,” she said.

She also questioned the quality of care.

“I went there for surgery and I had to prep my own belly. That was the last time I went there in 2005,” Mrs. Gilbo said. “I wouldn’t actually take my dog there.”

Mrs. Gilbo said friends of hers who work at the hospital have told her Administrator Charles P. Conole was informed repeatedly of the lab’s weaknesses.

“It falls on deaf ears,” she said. “It’s a shame because it leaves our community strapped. I would like to see someone come in and run it like the other hospitals. It has to be brought back.”

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