Health center to reopen

Health center to reopen

By Matthew Saari

The Whitehall Health Center will reopen next week.

Whitehall town supervisor John Rozell announced Thursday he had received notice of the opening earlier in the week.

“Whitehall Health Center will be open two days a week, starting next week,” Rozell said.

Glens Falls Hospital vice president Ray Agnew confirmed the statement, also providing the days and hours of operation.

“Next week Whitehall Health Center will open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, (7 a.m. to 5 p.m.)” Agnew said via email.

The announcement is likely music to locals’ ears, coming just two weeks after the hospital told The Times it wasn’t entirely sure if the center would reopen.

“We are evaluating all of our options regarding the care our patients need, and the Whitehall Health Center,” Agnew said then. “No final decision has yet been made about reopening the center. We will notify patients directly when plans are finalized.”

The Whitehall Health Center has been closed since April, when Glens Falls Hospital furloughed 337 employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not long after the Whitehall Times published Glens Falls Hospital’s ambiguous response regarding the future of the center, mayor Phil Smith and deputy mayor Teresa Austin penned letters of their own – to the hospital and State Sen. Betty Little respectively.

“Many residents in our village have no transportation to Granville,” Austin wrote, referencing the next nearest health center. “If nothing else we need urgent care!!”

Little responded not long after, indicating she had spoken with Diane Shugrue, president and CEO of Glens Falls Hospital, who reiterated the message the Times had received – no definitive decision has been made as yet.

“She said some health centers haven’t opened from the covid closure yet,” Little said via email. “A lot going on with hospital as they become part of Albany med so no big decisions being made. Will keep in touch with her.”

Around the same time, Smith wrote directly to the hospital.

“It has come to my attention that the Glens Falls Hospital is not planning to re-open the medical facility here in Whitehall,” Smith wrote, expressing dissatisfaction with the decision for the obvious reason of depriving locals of basic health care but also for the lack of communication between hospital administration and village officials.

“Especially without providing any notice to local officials or the residents that live here and that depend on the medical center,” he wrote.

Like Austin, Smith pointed to the fact that the next-nearest health care centers are either in Castleton, Vermont or Granville, thus necessitating transportation the elderly and poor may not have.

Smith then called the hospital out on paying only lip service to its mission statement.

“How is your decision to close the facility in keeping with your purpose?” Smith asked. “It is not! It certainly is not ‘patient-centered care every day’ or any day in Whitehall.”