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E.J. Noble Hospital administrator steps down

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GOUVERNEUR — Charles P. Conole has resigned as administrator at E.J. Noble Hospital after 21 years on the job and after months of turmoil at the hospital, which remains unable to perform all of its functions because the state Health Department has not allowed its blood bank to reopen.

The hospital’s board accepted Mr. Conole’s resignation at a meeting Monday. A date has not been set for his official departure from the hospital but it is expected by the end of the month and his office has already been cleaned out.

Mr. Conole hung up on a reporter who called his home in Syracuse for comment.

His resignation comes a little more than two months after the Health Department shut down the hospital’s lab for deficiencies, which forced E.J. Noble to temporarily close some of its services, including the emergency room.

After the hospital submitted a corrective plan, the Health Department allowed a partial reopening of the lab under the supervision of Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, but without a blood bank, the hospital cannot perform most surgeries and the maternity ward is closed.

“I think it’s been a tremendous amount of pressure on him,” said board Chairman Timothy J. Monroe. “I think he wanted to get it back on line and bow out gracefully.”

Dr. Monroe, a veterinarian, said Mr. Conole is 72 and ready for retirement.

Director of Nursing Mary Jane Gotham will act as administrator until the board finds a permanent replacement, Dr. Monroe said.

Dr. Monroe said the board will remain but he may step down as chairman based on the new administrator’s needs.

Despite the hospital’s most recent problems, Mr. Conole navigated it through many rough waters, Dr. Monroe said.

During his tenure, the hospital added a classroom building and a physicians’ office building and completed an expansion last year that added 33,000 square feet, new patient rooms and space for a number of outpatient services.

“I think he wanted to see our new addition through. Without the addition, we probably would not have come back to service because the building was old,” Dr. Monroe said. “He really did a lot. It was time for him to move on.”

The hospital has had financial setbacks, losing $650,000 last year. Its revenues have shrunk with its cutback in services and the state attorney general has thwarted E.J. Noble’s attempts to tap into restricted funds in its endowment, but the hospital remains solvent, Dr. Monroe said.

It is up to date on payments it makes to the National Automatic Sprinkler Pension Fund, which guaranteed the $11 million in bonds used to finance the addition.

“E.J. Noble remains in good standing on their bonds and obligations. We’ve had a very good relationship with E.J. Noble,” said Lee O. Smith, investment adviser with Hartland Asset Management, the agent for the pension fund. “We’ve been monitoring the Health Department discussions. We are involved in the process.”

The hospital is current on its other major obligations, including payroll, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and pension payments, Dr. Monroe said.

“Sure, we owe some vendors some money, but it’s nothing insurmountable,” he said.

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