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E.J. Noble, Samaritan, state discuss collaboration

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GOUVERNEUR — E.J. Noble Hospital officials met Wednesday in Albany with representatives of the state Department of Health and Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, for face-to-face discussion of a collaboration to help the Gouverneur hospital rectify deficiencies in its lab.

The scope of Samaritan’s involvement still is being determined, Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said. A timeline on when E.J. Noble might reopen remains part of a corrective plan under review by the Department of Health, spokesman Bill Schwarz said.

The state closed E.J. Noble’s lab Sept. 28, which prompted a shutdown of the facility’s acute care services, including inpatient care, surgeries and the emergency room. On Friday, the hospital submitted proposals to the Department of Health from Samaritan and Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, on possible lab supervision along with a corrective plan addressing deficiencies.

The meeting brought together E.J. Noble Administrator Charles P. Conole, hospital board Chairman Timothy J. Monroe, E.J. Noble Medical Director Dr. Donald C. Schuessler Jr., Samaritan CEO Thomas H. Carman, other Samaritan personnel and Department of Health officials.

“We will help out wherever we need to,” Ms. Kittle said.

Dr. Monroe, a veterinarian, referred most questions to the Department of Health, but said he was pleased by the tenor of the discussions.

Mr. Schwarz declined to go into details of the plan or whether Samaritan’s involvement might extend beyond lab supervision.

“I can’t provide specifics,” he said. “I’m just saying conversations were going on addressing the issues at hand. The ultimate outcome on this will be determined when the review process is complete. The driving force is to ensure the health and security of patients. When that standard has been met, the next step will take place.”

Mr. Schwarz also declined to answer questions about whether E.J. Noble’s fragile fiscal health, worsened by the closure, and the loss of jobs for 70 employees would factor into the speed of a reopening.

“The next step is to continue to review that plan of correction and work closely with the hospital to address the issues that were raised,” he said. “The process will continue until such time as we feel the plan has been vetted and a decision has been rendered.”

Mr. Schwarz also had little to say on whether Canton-Potsdam had a role to play.

“I can’t comment on their involvement. They’ve had a long working relationship with E.J. Noble,” he said. “For today’s purpose, the meeting was between Samaritan, E.J. Noble and the Health Department.”

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