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Union members nervous over E.J. Noble reorganization plan


GOUVERNEUR — Some members of Service Employees International Union are anxious over whether they will have a job Jan. 1 when E.J. Noble Hospital is expected to become Gouverneur Hospital.

E.J. Noble is dissolving under a reorganization plan to emerge as Gouverneur Hospital with a parent organization — St. Lawrence Health System — which also will oversee Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam. As E.J. Noble as an organization will be no more, all of its contracts are void and employees had to apply for their jobs.

The process has left some disgruntled and nervous.

“They’re jerking us around. This is a horrible way to treat people,” said Kathy M. Tucker, Service Employees International Union Local 1199 vice president. “They say they don’t know because the facility doesn’t exist yet. If they don’t know what they’re going to do, they have no business running a hospital. That would be scary.”

Services at the hospital will be the same Jan. 1 as when it was E.J. Noble, so employees have little to worry about, although there may be changes in shifts and some cross-training, said St. Lawrence Health System CEO David B. Acker.

“Our calculations are that everybody who works there now who has indicated they want to work there will have a job,” he said. “We’re going to train them. We’re not going to set them up for failure.”

Gouverneur Hospital has posted job openings equivalent to the number employed by E.J. Noble and is in the process of offering jobs to E.J. Noble employees.

However, morale is low, said a worker who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions.

“The employees are very frustrated. We’re all upset,” the employee said. “A lot of them have not even Christmas-shopped for their families. We don’t even know when we’re going to find out.”

SEIU Local 1199 represents 99 employees at the hospital. Before the Health Department shut down E.J. Noble’s lab Sept. 28, 2012, for deficiencies, the union represented 135 employees.

New York State Nurses Association, which represents registered nurses at the hospital, is looking for continuity of care.

“The nurses who have provided quality care to the community for so many years should be kept on in similar positions,” NYSNA spokeswoman Eliza Bates said in an email. “We have shared our concerns about meeting community needs with Canton-Potsdam Hospital administrators, who currently operate E.J. Noble, and look forward to a smooth transition of services.”

Mr. Acker said he appreciated the work of E.J. Noble employees through trying times.

“They’ve had to work there when the place was closed. I believe some worked without pay,” he said. “You can’t have anything but a large amount of respect for them.”

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