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Sun., Nov. 23
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St. Lawrence County seeks nurses

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators agreed Monday to hire four nurses for Public Health so it can rebuild its Certified Home Health Agency.

Last week, the board agreed to keep the CHHA rather than sell it and the county’s Long-Term Health Care Program for $80,000 to Northern Lights, a new partnership of Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley and United Helpers Management Co. However, legislators told the county agency it had to turn itself around or face elimination.

The CHHA has lost staff while waiting to learn its fate, so its rebirth requires hiring.

“Let’s not restrict Public Health’s ability to make the CHHA a success,” Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction said.

Legislators agreed to invest approximately $320,000 in salary and fringe benefits for the four nurses, three of whom will go to CHHA. The fourth will go to the Prevent program, where a vacancy was held open for a county worker in the event the CHHA was sold. The Prevent position for a mandated program in Early Intervention is eligible for state aid up to 36 percent.

Without the Prevent nurse, Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway said she would have to cut services, such as blood pressure clinics for seniors, that legislators wanted.

Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, joined with Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, Alex A. MacKinnon, R-Fowler, and Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, in voting against filling the positions. Mr. Acres said he did not think the county CHHA could survive because of competition and the state’s funding trends.

“This is a big mistake. This is all about the math. It’s not about the politics,” Mr. Acres said. “I hate to be bad news but it’s definitely going to be a short-term thing.”

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