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E.J. Noble nurses hold vigil

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GOUVERNEUR — About a dozen E.J. Noble Hospital registered nurses held a vigil Thursday in front of the hospital to demonstrate the seriousness of its closure.

The day was too windy for the candlelight vigil the nurses had planned, but many of them held battery-powered lights instead.

The lights symbolized the solemnness of the hospital’s effective closure by the state Department of Health because of deficiencies in its lab, New York State Nurses Association spokesman Mark A. Genovese said.

The Health Department shut down the lab Sept. 28, which led to the closure of the emergency room and acute care, obstetric surgical units. The state is reviewing the hospital’s corrective plan and considering a collaboration between E.J. Noble and Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, for supervision of the lab.

“Hopefully, they are going to work something out and we’ll be better, stronger for it,” said registered nurse Ellen L. Meilleur, Russell. “I think it’s very important to rally around. I know we do save lives.”

As the nurses stood in front of the hospital, passing motorists tooted their horns in support.

“The community needs it. We need it,” said registered nurse Patricia A. Mackiewicz, Hermon. “I think it’s a great place to work. It’s like a family.”

Having a hospital in a community the size of Gouverneur can be a matter of life and death, she said.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of sick people out there who can’t get to another facility,” Mrs. Mackiewicz said. “The Department of Health needs to say, ‘OK, we can open,’ and they can observe us.”

Mayor Ronald P. McDougall came to support the nurses.

“Day 13,” he said, referring to the number of days the hospital’s essential services have been closed. “It’s certainly very troubling. I’m cautiously optimistic in the near future of a reopening. Hopefully people will be off the parking lot and back in the building.”

The hospital, which employs 245 people, is a cornerstone of Gouverneur.

Having E.J. Noble closed is a safety issue as other hospitals are about an hour away, he said.

“It’s hurting the community,” Mr. McDougall said.

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