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Gouverneur Hospital is silent on plans to close Kinney Nursing Home

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GOUVERNEUR — The closure of Kinney Nursing Home is on the horizon, but employees of the cash-strapped facility have not been kept in the loop about how soon it could happen.

The closure has been part of a reorganizational plan for health care in Gouverneur for some time, but St. Lawrence Health System is keeping mum on whether a closure plan for the facility has made it to the desk of the state Department of Health.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor,” said Rebecca J. Faber, spokeswoman for St. Lawrence Health System, the parent organization of both Gouverneur Hospital — which is affiliated with the nursing home — and Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam.

Mrs. Faber declined to answer other questions about the nursing home, and a state Health Department spokesman was unable to confirm Tuesday whether a petition to close the nursing home had been filed.

St. Lawrence Health System officials have previously said an analysis of the nursing home’s operations was being conducted.

It is not known whether that analysis has been concluded. The hospital’s proposal last fall to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council about the reorganization of E.J. Noble Hospital into Gouverneur Hospital included its plan for the nursing home.

“It is anticipated that Kinney Nursing Home will cease operations under a soon-to-be-submitted plan of closure,” the proposal said. “The nursing home is not a subject of this application.”

With the approval of the Health Department and state Supreme Court, Gouverneur Hospital came into existence Jan. 1, taking over the financially troubled E.J. Noble Hospital. Kinney Nursing Home leases space from Gouverneur Hospital. The nursing home and Gouverneur Hospital have the same board of directors, but are separate organizations.

When Gouverneur Hospital began Jan. 1, it opened with about the same number of employees as E.J. Noble had, sharing a number of staff with the nursing home. The effect of the nursing home’s closure on employees is unclear.

Kathy M. Tucker, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 1199, which represents about 100 workers at Gouverneur Hospital, said she was anxious to hear the official word on the nursing home’s future.

“I have no idea how this will impact the work force,” she said. “It would be a big blow to this community.”

The nursing home has 40 beds, but its census has been declining.

“It would be a shame for the people who have lived at Kinney Nursing Home,” Ms. Tucker said. “Who knows where they’re going to end up?”

Like E.J. Noble, Kinney Nursing Home has suffered crippling financial losses in recent years. The nursing home owed E.J. Noble $2.3 million as of Oct. 31, and its unaudited losses for the first 10 months of 2013 were $239,000.

As part of the hospital’s reorganization, E.J. Noble purchased the assets of the nursing home in exchange for its debt. Gouverneur Hospital took over the assets of E.J. Noble.

The nursing home building, which is attached to Gouverneur Hospital, needed significant improvements, including a sprinkler system that was mandated to be in place by last year.

The nursing home was cited recently by the Health Department for having an inadequate sprinkler system.

According to the citation, “in an interview with the maintenance director on Nov. 5, he stated the facility was only partially sprinklered. He stated he was aware complete sprinkler coverage was required as of August 2013, and the sprinkler project was currently on hold by administration. He stated a small area of the basement and the laundry room was sprinklered.”

The citation continued, “the administrator was interviewed and stated he was aware complete sprinkler coverage was required. He stated field work for the sprinkler system had started, and was then stopped, approximately two months ago. He stated the sprinkler project was very costly and disruptive to residents. At the time of the interview, he stated one-fifth of the sprinkler project was paid for, and he did not know when the project would be completed.”

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