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E.J. Noble to be managed by Potsdam hospital

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GOUVERNEUR — E.J. Noble Hospital has agreed to be managed by Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

“We have entered into a management contract with Canton-Potsdam Hospital and are awaiting the approval of our owner,” said Timothy J. Monroe, chairman of the board of E.J. Noble.

Dr. Monroe, a veterinarian, said the deal has been reviewed by the state Health Department and is awaiting the approval of National Automatic Sprinkler Pension Fund, which guaranteed the $11 million in bonds used to finance E.J. Noble’s recent addition.

“We’re doing our due diligence and going through the plans and projections and hope to resolve that quickly,” said Lee O. Smith, investment adviser with Hartland Asset Management, the agent for the pension fund. “We’re going through the process of reviewing everything and getting a handle on everything. When we’ve gone through it, we’ll have a decision.”

Mr. Smith said he thinks a decision is possible in about 10 days.

The Health Department had no immediate comment.

CPH spokeswoman Rebecca J. Faber referred questions to E.J. Noble.

“Any information concerning E.J. Noble will have to come from E.J. Noble,” she said.

The Gouverneur hospital has struggled since the Health Department closed its laboratory Sept. 28 because of deficiencies, forcing E.J. Noble to shut down many of its essential services, including the emergency room.

After E.J. Noble came up with a corrective plan, the Health Department allowed a partial reopening of the lab under the supervision of Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, an arrangement which could continue even with CPH handling administration.

“Samaritan provided us with a quick response to a restructuring demanded by the Health Department,” Dr. Monroe said. “They’re still involved with the lab. It’s not intended to have a time line.”

However, E.J. Noble’s blood bank remains closed, which means it cannot perform most surgeries and its maternity ward is closed. The hospital has been turning in proficiency reports to the Health Department, which has not yet cleared any reopening.

At least 70 employees were laid off when the hospital shut down the first time and less than half of those have returned to work.

The partial shutdown also has been hard on physicians, some of whom are working temporarily in other locations.

“None of the doctors have left yet,” Dr. Monroe said. “I know some are planning on leaving.”

Reduced services have left the hospital financially limping. An attempt to draw on restricted funds in the hospital’s endowment does not appear promising and the hospital is working on a package of potential grants and loans through the state and other agencies,

“Finances are dwindling,” Dr. Monroe said. “It’s very close. We don’t have a lot of money.”

The resignation of Administrator Charles P. Conole in December cleared the way for the deal with CPH, which is helping the hospital with human resources, financial issues and quality assurance.

“They’re looking at all these things so we can streamline our operation and gain more revenue,” Dr. Monroe said. “Right now, we’re not reimbursing them for the services they’ve provided.”

He was unsure whether Marlinda L. LaValley, vice president for administrative services at CPH, would stay on as administrator at E.J. Noble or whether the hospital would end up with a different arrangement.

“That decision hasn’t been discussed at all,” Dr. Monroe said.

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