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E.J. Noble to reopen today

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GOUVERNEUR — Closed for more than a month, E.J. Noble Hospital will partially reopen at 9 a.m. today, according to the state Department of Health.

The state shut down the hospital’s lab because of deficiencies Sept. 28, which led to the closure of the emergency room and acute care, obstetric and surgical units. The closure prompted concerns about the future of the hospital’s 245 employees as well as health care services in Gouverneur. A Health Department spokesman, reached Sunday afternoon, could not say how many employees would report to work today.

Samaritan Medical Center of Watertown will provide lab supervision at the hospital, allowing it to reopen, said Mary L. Wilsie, administrative organizer of Service Employees International Union Local 1199, which represents licensed practical nurses, nurse’s aides, technicians and other staff at the hospital.

Samaritan, E.J. Noble and Health Department officials met this month in Albany to discuss the hospital’s future. A statement by the department released over the weekend read: “A recent on-site survey of the laboratory indicates that the laboratory has made significant progress to correct the deficiencies. Based on these findings, DOH will permit the laboratory to perform a limited menu of tests that will allow the hospital to reopen.”

While the emergency room will reopen, the limited-service lab means obstetric services and some surgeries and other acute medical procedures still will not be permitted at E.J. Noble, according to the department.

“E.J. Noble will be allowed to receive patients from EMS transport, but those needing treatment beyond the limited lab services at the hospital will be stabilized and transported to other facilities,” the statement said.

Dr. Timothy J. Monroe, chairman of E.J. Noble’s board of directors, would not discuss details of the reopening, referring inquiries to the Health Department.

“It’s paramount to the safety of the folks who live in our community to have that emergency room open,” he said Sunday. “It’s very important to provide care to folks in our community who would otherwise have to drive 35 miles to the next emergency room.”

The reopening does not come as a total surprise, Ms. Wilsie said. Health Department staff was inspecting the facility over a two-day period last week, she said.

“Things were getting in place so they could reopen,” Ms. Wilsie said. “It was just a waiting game until the DOH gave the OK.”

Of the 132 SEIU employees at E.J Noble, 58 were laid off during the shutdown, including licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and employees in the medical records, transcription and billing departments, Ms. Wilsie said.

She also was not surprised that only some hospital services are being restored initially.

“We didn’t really expect the whole hospital would open all at once,” she said. “It’s going to be a gradual thing.”

Acting Gouverneur Mayor Ronald P. McDougall praised the state’s decision to reopen the hospital.

“It’s certainly been a loss to the community,” Mr. McDougall said. “It’s on the road to recovery ... providing a much-needed service to the greater Gouverneur area.”

He credited state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell and state and hospital officials with cooperating to resolve the problems.

“Many people have worked on this,” he said.

Having the hospital reopened this week is especially important as severe weather approaches, he said.

“I’m just glad it came together, as luck would have it, in the nick of time,” Mr. McDougall said.

E.J. Noble Administrator Charles P. Conole could not be reached for comment Sunday evening.

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