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Gouverneur primary health clinic treats all

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GOUVERNEUR — Insured or not, all are welcome at E.J. Noble Hospital’s primary care center operated by Community Health Center of the North County.

“We’re here. We’re excited,” said Doris A. Chenier, director of Cerebral Palsy of the North Country, which operates the community health centers in Malone, Canton and now Gouverneur. “I don’t think it was any secret there were issues with the hospital. This just seemed an opportunity to ensure primary care would stay in the community.”

The state Public Health and Health Planning Council has given St. Lawrence Health System — the umbrella organization that will oversee Canton-Potsdam Hospital , Potsdam, and E.J. Noble — the go-ahead, contingent upon approval of a reorganization plan. Under the proposal, the nonprofit Gouverneur Hospital will become the operator of what was E.J. Noble.

The Gouverneur hospital had heavy financial losses during the last three years and was forced by the state Department of Health to close its inpatient services for about three months in 2012 because of quality of care issues.

To ensure continued health care to the community, a reorganizational plan included the relationship with the federally qualified Community Health Center.

“We certainly wanted to see that continue,” Mrs. Chenier said.

The primary care center accepts most insurance plans, along with Medicaid, Medicare and Family Health Plus. There is a sliding scale based on income, with a nominal fee of $10 if people qualify, said Amy L. Dougan, coordinator of community development for Cerebral Palsy.

For appointments or more information, call 287-4440.

The clinic, with 13 examination rooms, is already busy with pediatrician Donald C. Schuessler Jr., internist George M. Dodds, family practitioner Teresa Lang and nurse practitioners Andrew LaFrance and Rachel I. Raven.

The clinic has a case manager to help patients and it provides women’s health services and works with the St. Lawrence County cancer screening program.

The hospital is expected to benefit from the clinic’s presence. Patients who use it are more likely to have other work done at the hospital, such as their lab work and other medical tests.

The clinic could become even more active as the Affordable Care Act rolls out, and it will have a staff member who can help people find their way through the system.

“As more people become insured, they’re going to seek care,” Mrs. Chenier said. “It’ll probably be too small, too soon. We have quite a practice here.”

Every patient who comes is new to Community Health Center, so they will have paperwork to fill out even though they may be coming to a doctor they have seen for years.

“We’re trying to work out all those kind of bumps,” Mrs. Chenier said.

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