Closing of lab forces New York hospital to shut down

Oct. 4, 2012

The consequences of the closing of a hospital laboratory are being felt in upstate New York: when the lab at E.J. Noble Hospital in Gouverneur, New York, was closed down late last month by order of the state Department of Health, the entire hospital, with the exception of its associated nursing home, also had to close its doors. The order to close the lab was accompanied by a second order suspending the hospital’s operating certificate for 30 days. Eighteen in-patients were relocated to nearby hospitals

The lab was closed because of what a Health Department official called “imminent risk for patients’ health and safety.” A variety of deficiencies had recently been revealed, including insufficient quality control, lack of supplies and personnel, expired supplies and materials, and safety concerns. Among the latter was possible blood supply contamination. According to the state Department of Health order, the lab’s problems included “a recent blood transfusion error that resulted in a patient receiving the wrong blood type.”

The hospital has the right to ask for a hearing to determine whether operating without clinical lab services creates a danger to patients. “I don’t blame the Commissioner of Health a bit for making the decision he did,” said Dr. Timothy J. Monroe, E.J. Noble Hospital board president. Hospital administrator Charles P. Conole indicated that the first priority for his institution going forward is to work with state health officials on correcting the problems in the lab. In the meantime, a Department of Health investigation of the lab’s deficiencies is ongoing. Read a newspaper report from the Watertown Daily Times.