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Annie Rutsky leads nurses and their supporters in a picket line. Photo: Sarah Harris
Annie Rutsky leads nurses and their supporters in a picket line. Photo: Sarah Harris

Nurses protest EJ Noble dissolution

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Nurses and their supporters protested outside EJ Noble Hospital in Gouverneur yesterday.

The financially troubled hospital is slated to close later this fall and re-emerge in a new regional healthcare partnership with Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

Leaders from both hospitals say EJ Noble has been mired in debt for years. Last fall the small hospital shut down temporarily after the state Department of Health closed its lab because of safety concerns.

Two hundred-sixteen people work at EJ Noble. The protesting nurses are skeptical about the coming change, wondering what it means for their jobs.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

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Around 20 nurses, wearing red t-shirts and carrying signs, gathered in the EJ Noble parking lot yesterday afternoon. They marched in circles and chanted pro-union slogans in protest of the hospital’s impending dissolution. 

Nurse Carrie Foster. Photo: Sarah Harris
Nurse Carrie Foster. Photo: Sarah Harris
Carrie Foster is an RN at EJ Noble. She’s holding a sign that says “nurses are your life savers.”

"I would like for all of us to be kept on as employees and keep our seniority under our existing contract," Foster  said. 

The nurses are part of a union, called the New York State Nurses Association. NYSNA has a contract with EJ Noble. But when the hospital is dissolved, the contract will no longer exist. And all employees will have to apply for jobs with the new hospital.

Foster says that she’ll apply. But she’s not happy about it.

"They’re our jobs. We have put our time in here. And we’re all here because we’re dedicated to the community and to the hospital and we wanna stay here."

The nurses have a lot of questions about whether they can carry over their seniority. They're not sure what will happen to their pensions – or whether they’ll even have jobs after January 1st.

"Let me be clear there is not re-hiring happening," said Rebecca Faber, spokesperson for Canton-Potsdam and the Gouverneur hospital.  

EJ Noble Hospital in Gouverneur. Photo: Sarah Harris
EJ Noble Hospital in Gouverneur. Photo: Sarah Harris
She says employee pensions will be safe. But most of the nurses’ questions can’t be answered yet.

"Gouverneur Hospital would appoint a human resources director, and the human resources director would initiate negotiations with the unions."

Union leader Annie Rutsky is representing the EJ Noble nurses in the negotiations. She wishes that the union had had better communication with Canton-Potsdam hospital. And she hopes the EJ Noble nurses will all have jobs when the new hospital is formed.

"This is being called a fresh start but how fresh does it need to be?" Rutsky asked. 

The nurses’ union is scheduled to meet with Canton-Potsdam Hospital on September 16.

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