Northern New York Newspapers
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Thu., Oct. 8
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Up to 70 E.J. Noble Hospital employees face possible layoffs


GOUVERNEUR — As many as 70 employees at E.J. Noble Hospital could be laid off soon as a result of the closure of the hospital’s lab and other subsequent services closing Friday.

Administrator Charles P. Conole said details as to who would be laid off and exactly when are still being worked out.

“There will be a reduction in force, and we’re working on that,” he said.

Employees may first choose to use their earned time off, such as vacation and personal days, while waiting for the hospital to get its lab up and running. That is something that each affected employee would need to work out with the hospital’s human resources department, he said. If people don’t have earned time, or ran out, they might not be as lucky.

The hospital has 245 employees.

Mr. Conole and his administrative team have been busy working toward a plan of correction since Friday, when the state Department of Health ordered its lab shut down. A number of deficiencies were cited since the problems were pointed out to the hospital in August, including a patient receiving the wrong blood type during a transfusion after a lab mix-up.

Without a functioning lab, the hospital could not operate an emergency room or acute-care services. Eighteen patients were transferred Friday to neighboring hospitals.

“This is a priority; we have to get it behind us,” Mr. Conole said.

While the hospital cannot reopen much of its operation until the state Department of Health gives the OK, there will be limited services available to the community. Radiology/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), physical therapy and respiratory therapy will still be available. The physicians office building will also be open.

“We encourage patients to utilize their doctor office,” Mr. Conole said.

Community primary-care clinics in Antwerp, Harrisville, Russell, Edwards and DeKalb Junction also will remain open. Lab draws and specialty tests will have to be sent to nearby hospitals, Mr. Conole said.

Although E. J. Noble Hospital has a right to appeal the decision of state Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, Mr. Conole said he will waive that right.

“What happened in the lab needs to be corrected — it’s not up for debate or appeal,” Mr. Conole said.

Meanwhile, many lab deficiencies centered around lack of supervision and oversight of lab techs, and their continuing education. After a decade of stable employment in the lab, a few of its employees left earlier this year.

“Recruiting medical technicians is a real challenge,” he said. “There are no medical technician schools in Northern New York. One of the issues we’ll be exploring this week is sort of a lab affiliation.”

Board President Dr. Timothy J. Monroe, a veterinarian, said Saturday it would make sense for E. J. Noble to partner with Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, for such a service.

Mr. Conole said he and E. J. Noble staff are determined to get through this rough patch, although “it’s not an easy time for health care.”

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