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Gouverneur community task force demands political support to fight closure of Kinney Nursing Home

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GOUVERNEUR — Balmat resident Noreen J. Boclair used to visit her mother every day at Kinney Nursing Home.

“I can’t do that now,” Mrs. Boclair told the village Board of Trustees on Tuesday in the municipal building, where a roomful of more than 50 people asked trustees to support their efforts to keep the nursing home open.

With the closure of the nursing home under review by the state Department of Health, Mrs. Boclair found a home for her mother, Margaret L. Goodison, at United Helpers RiverLedge Campus in Ogdensburg, so as not to risk her being moved even farther away.

The census at the 40-bed Kinney Nursing Home is down to 22 as patients are not coming in and family members scramble to find places for their loved ones in anticipation of a closing.

The new trend in health care is for regional hospitals with nursing homes of hundreds of beds, a model that may work in urban settings, Mrs. Boclair said.

“They have no idea what people in rural areas are going through,” she said.

The concern over the potential closing of the nursing home and what kind of health care Gouverneur Hospital will provide goes beyond immediate needs because it affects whether businesses view the town favorably, Mark A. Gazin said.

“We’re seeing the destruction of small communities,” he said.

The village board embraced the concerns of the community task force, passing a resolution opposing the closure of the nursing home. The Town Council will consider a similar measure, and Legislator Donald A. Peck, D-Gouverneur, said he would ask the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators to get involved.

“There must be an outcry from our leaders,” said the Rev. Robert F. LaVeck, president of the Greater Gouverneur Council of Churches. “We need to get some heroes on our side.”

Silence means tacit approval of a closure, he said.

“I don’t know if anybody in the community supports the closure of the nursing home,” Mayor Ronald P. McDougall said.

But the nursing home represents a difficult situation, he said.

The village took a $200,000 hit over an Urban Development Action Grant that E.J. Noble Hospital, the precursor to Gouverneur Hospital, failed to fully repay. It recently forgave penalties on a late payment for water and sewer services. The village provided services in trade with the hospital for work on its parking lot.

Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are not enough for the nursing home to break even while the building needs expensive improvements, such as a sprinkler system. At the same time, the community cannot stand to lose more jobs, Mr. McDougall said.

The task force is not looking for the village to fund the nursing home, Trustee Charles W. Newvine said.

“They’re just asking us to stand with them,” he said. “We’re ready and willing to stand with you.”

Edward P. Hammond suggested the community push for a larger nursing home of 200 to 300 beds rather than allow closure.

“Go big or go home,” he said.

Time is of the essence to mount a political pushback against closure, Joan A. Eacker said.

“They could make a decision tomorrow,” she said.

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