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Gouverneur Hospital on the road to recovery

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GOUVERNEUR — Gouverneur Hospital is rounding the bend on being able to provide core medical services to its community and stay solvent, according to the medical director of its laboratory.

“We’re not just play-acting,” Dr. Steve K. Landas told members of the Greater Gouverneur Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual dinner Tuesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post. “We are turning a corner and doing it robustly.”

Dr. Landas, professor of pathology and urology and medical director of SUNY Upstate University’s pathology patient service centers, Syracuse, became the medical director of Gouverneur Hospital’s lab a little over 10 months ago, when it was still E.J. Noble Hospital. Gouverneur Hospital came into being Jan. 1 after a culmination of events that nearly closed the health care facility.

The state Department of Health ordered the hospital’s lab closed Sept. 28, 2012, because of deficiencies. The hospital has since reopened many of its essential services, although it no longer has a maternity ward and does not conduct major surgeries. The financially strapped Kinney Nursing Home, which had been affiliated with E.J. Noble, closed Wednesday. The blood bank at the hospital remains closed, although the Health Department is looking at allowing Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, to provide a transfusion service to Gouverneur Hospital in the event of an emergency.

In time, the blood bank at Gouverneur Hospital could reopen, said Michael J. Burgess, chairman of the board. Dr. Landas, in partnership with the staff, has revised almost every policy and procedure at the hospital, he said.

“We’re the new kid on the block. We’re the startup right now. We’re here. We’re open,” Mr. Burgess said. “We are looking to win your trust. It’s a business and it’s all about customer service. Try us again for the first time.”

While the hospital has lost some of the services it once offered, it has gained in other ways. It is part of a larger system with Canton-Potsdam Hospital under St. Lawrence Health System, a two-hospital operation.

The Community Health Center of the North Country has a primary care clinic in the hospital that treats patients regardless of insurance. Gouverneur Hospital has critical access status, which reduced the number of its hospital beds while increasing its Medicare reimbursements.

Dr. Landas said Gouverneur is much like the Iowa town where he grew up, where there was also a community hospital.

“I think about things like the hospital I was born in, a hospital that evolved, that tried to give too many services, over-reached, but trimmed,” he said.

Hospitals get into trouble when the scope of their services exceeds their population base, he said.

“Any facility that’s going to be financially viable has to be right-sized,” he said. “If we try to do everything beyond the critical core need, we’re going to doom ourselves.”

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