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EJ Noble nurses and the New York State Nurses Association outside the Gouverneur hospital. Photo: Julie Grant
EJ Noble nurses and the New York State Nurses Association outside the Gouverneur hospital. Photo: Julie Grant

EJ Noble Nurses hold vigil in Gouverneur

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People gathered outside the EJ Noble Hospital in Gouverneur Thursday afternoon, holding signs that read "Save Our Hospital" and "Patient Care First." They were there for a vigil to support the thirty nurses who have been laid off.

EJ Noble was forced to close late last month, after the New York State Department of Health closed down its lab. State officials say they're working with the hospital to rectify the deficiencies. That includes discussions with Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown about collaborating at EJ Noble lab. The health department says it's currently reviewing EJ Noble's plans to address concerns at the lab, and has no time frame for reopening the hospital.

Meanwhile, the nurses have all filed for unemployment benefits. Julie Grant went to a vigil they held Thursday, and spoke with nurses Pat Makiewicz and Ellen Meilleur.

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Pat Makiewicz: I’m an RN. I work in the Medsurge, on the floor. I’m here to support the reopening of the hospital. And I certainly hope public health opens it soon.

We service the Amish community, we service the prison. We have a lot of people out on the country that come in here. I've seen a lot of need in this area.
Ellen Meilleur: I’m an RN. I work in the ER. I’ve worked here for 26, going on 27 years.

PM: I actually got a phone call at 3:43 in the morning to tell me not to report to work. They said public health came in and closed the hospital. It’s sad. It’s sad for the community, it’s sad for the workers. It’s just sad for everyone. If you really think about it, people have to travel at least 40 miles to get to the nearest hospital. If you’re having a heart attack, that’s not a good thing. If you’re having a stroke, you’re not going to be able to stop that stroke before there is serious damage.

EM: We service the Amish community, we service the prison. We have a lot of people out on the country that come in here. I’ve seen a lot of need in this area. Once we get up and running again, it’s going to take a while to regain everyone’s confidence. But there are good nurses here, and there are people that care here. I was born in this hospital myself in 1952, so it’s been here a long time.

PM: The public health department came in here and closed the hospital. And I don’t think we can grieve against public health, you know what I mean? If we didn’t have public health, things wouldn’t run right anyplace. That’s a necessity. I’m not faulting them for closing us, I just feel bad that it came to this. I don’t think we’re going to file any grievances. I can’t see any reason to.

EM: I’ve signed up for unemployment. I’ve never drawn unemployment, I’m 60 years old and I’ve never drawn one penny of it. So if it’s just a few weeks maybe I can hold out. My husband’s retired, and he has a pension. The most important thing for me is not the money, well, money’s always important, but the thing is my health insurance. He doesn’t carry health insurance on me, I carry the health insurance on myself. So without the job, I could wind up without health insurance. And at 60, that’s important.

PM: I am older, and I don’t know if people hesitate to hire someone that’s older. I have a lot of experience. I’m going to wait a little longer, not a lot longer. My husband’s disabled, I support the family. We have a house. We have our own home, so I can wait too long. I’ll wait a little while longer.

EM: I don’t feel like we’re protesting anybody. It’s a vigil because we want it to be opened back up. We care. It’s not about blame or being mad.

PM: I’m sure public health will have to observe us. That wouldn’t surprise me. As far as I know, we’re going to have someone from Samaritan oversee the lab. Which is fine, that’s okay. And if someone needs to oversee all departments, that’s okay too. Whatever is needed to get us open.

EM: It’s just, let’s get up and running. Let’s do what we do best, which is to take care of patients.

 

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