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E.J. Noble Hospital poised to get $9.3 million in grants for restructuring

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GOUVERNEUR — The financial position of E.J. Noble Hospital is getting a hefty boost.

The state Department of Health is working with the hospital on a $9.3 million Healthcare Efficiency and Affordability Law grant to support E.J. Noble’s restructuring, Health Department spokesman James P. O’Hare wrote in an email.

Mr. O’Hare did not provide details of how the money will be used or the time frame for distribution, but for now, the hospital will receive a HEAL grant infusion of $900,000 that it will use to pay back a loan arranged through the Dormitory Authority.

The money is the third installment of funds pledged by the Health Department to keep E.J. Noble afloat while it changes the way it provides health care, said Rebecca J. Faber, spokeswoman for Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, which has a management agreement with E.J. Noble.

E.J. Noble, already in financial jeopardy, nearly collapsed after the Health Department shut down its laboratory for deficiencies Sept. 28, then later allowed a partial reopening. With some services sidelined and patient numbers down, the hospital has continued to struggle.

“We’re grateful to the state,” Ms. Faber said. “The money is necessary to pursue the plan. Volume is improving, but it’s not where we want it to be yet.”

The agreement among E.J. Noble, Canton-Potsdam Hospital and the state included a focus on primary care — which is being pursued in partnership with the Cerebral Palsy Association of the North Country for a federally subsidized clinic that soon will be under construction.

The lab has regained a number of its functions, and an upgraded operating room has reopened for some procedures.

E.J. Noble also is becoming a critical access hospital, which will reduce the number of its inpatient beds — which were rarely filled regardless — and increase reimbursements from Medicare. Federal approval for the critical access designation came last week.

“It’s a nice step forward,” Ms. Faber said. “There’s reason for cautious optimism.”

The DeKalb clinic has reopened. The opening of an office for nurse practitioners Rachel I. Raven and Andrew LaFrance was slightly delayed, but is expected to happen this month.

“We have worked hard to help E.J. Noble get back up on its feet, so the area wouldn’t be deprived of vital health-care services,” state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said in an email. “Now, and moving forward, it’s imperative that we continue to do everything we can to ensure the hospital remains in place and the health-care needs in the region are met.”

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