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State Health Department reviewing closure plan for Kinney Nursing Home

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GOUVERNEUR — The state Health Department confirmed Wednesday that it received a closure plan for Kinney Nursing Home in late December that it is reviewing.

Meanwhile, a community effort has begun to save the facility controlled by Gouverneur Hospital.

“If we can raise money for so many other lesser things, certainly we can find a way to keep this unit operational. We encourage everybody to get involved, both in prayer, but also writing to your local and state politicians,” a letter from the Rev. Robert F. LaVeck, president of the Greater Gouverneur Council of Churches states. “There must be a way. So, I say, lift up your voices because the door of opportunity may be soon out of our grasp.”

A state Health Department spokesman was unable to provide details of the closure plan, including a target closure date or how long state officials will take for their review.

“We don’t put a timeline on it,” spokesman Jeffrey W. Hammond said.

St. Lawrence Health System, the parent organization of both Gouverneur Hospital and Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, cannot close the nursing home before the state makes its decision. If the state were to approve the plan, the nursing home could be closed after 90 days.

It remains unclear what effect a closure would have on employees, some of whom are shared with Gouverneur Hospital.

The number of patients in the 40-bed nursing home has been declining, but a current census was not available.

The closure plan would not be available unless the state approves it, Mr. Hammond said.

The Rev. Mr. LaVeck, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship Church and a frequent visitor as a minister at the nursing home, said he has been told patient numbers are being reduced so the walls can be painted and to make other changes.

When he asked Gouverneur Hospital CEO Marlinda L. LaValley about the nursing home’s future, “she says ‘it’s up in the air,’” the Rev. Mr. LaVeck said. “She doesn’t give us much hope either. All we know is it would be devastating to the community.”

The Rev. Mr. LaVeck said he and other clergy members have been thinking about the future of the nursing home — including whether it could be expanded as a more cost-efficient model — for some time as part of the reorganization of E.J. Noble Hospital into Gouverneur Hospital. The nursing home is a separate organization that rents space from Gouverneur Hospital and whose board members are the same as for Gouverneur Hospital.

“The nursing home is a difficult issue for those who have to handle the finances and daily operation of the facility. The bottom line is that it does not pay for itself. We are losing money every year. We who are on the Counsel of Churches are sympathetic to the difficulties involved,” the Rev. Mr. LaVeck wrote in the letter he is sending to the media and politicians. “On the other hand, we cannot imagine a Gouverneur without its nursing home. If the unit closes, it will hurt in far-reaching ways. We do believe in honoring our elders.”

If the nursing home closes, one fear is that patients could be transferred far away, he said.

“The most important thing to people in their twilight years is that people who love them come and visit them,” he said.

If the facility does close, the health needs of each resident will be assessed so a proper placement can be made, Mr. Hammond said.

St. Lawrence Health System “would work with the family and providers to keep them close to home,” he said.

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