Schenectady County

Crowd says goodbye to St. Clare’s

With candles and tears, about 70 people on Sunday gathered to say goodbye to an “old friend” — St

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With candles and tears, about 70 people on Sunday gathered to say goodbye to an “old friend” — St. Clare’s Hospital.

The hospital on Friday surrendered its operating license as a Catholic health-care facility and is now a subsidiary of Ellis Hospital. As of midnight, its new name is the Ellis Hospital McClellan Campus. Ellis Hospital officials are changing St. Clare’s into an urgent care service that will no longer be operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its emergency room will remain open. Critical care and inpatient services are being transferred to Ellis Hospital and maternity services to Bellevue Woman’s Health Center.

The crowd gathered in front of the main entrance at 8:30 p.m. for a half-hour candlelight vigil. They sang “Amazing Grace” and said the Lord’s Prayer before people offered spontaneous tributes.

Chris Rakus, a nurse in the emergency care department, said even though the name will change, the essence will remain the same.

“It will be the same people and the same spirit working in the emergency room,” she said. “We have to go forward and we have to do what’s best for Schenectady. We just love you and we’re going to miss you St. Clare’s.”

Local resident Jane Sullivan said the hospital always had a reputation for helping the less fortunate.

“It didn’t matter if you didn’t have money or you didn’t have health insurance, you were never turned away,” she said.

Her daughter, Marybeth Pallack of Niskayuna, has been a maternity ward nurse for the last 25 years. She is moving to Bellevue. Pallack said she worries that Schenectady women will lack transportation to access pregnancy services there.

Laurie Briskie, a 23-year nurse in the emergency room, said she never thought this day would come. She expressed hope for the future.

“Change is hard but it takes time. I’m sure it will be fine,” she said.

Teresa Yates-Dundas, who has been a nurse for almost five years, said she didn’t understand the decision, given that the hospital was still very busy.

Even former staff members returned to the hospital for the vigil.

“I’m here to say goodbye to an old friend,” said George O’Connell, a former vice president who retired nine years ago. “You had a special feeling when you walked in the hospital. There was a real sense of caring. It was more than a job to everybody.”

He said he did not agree with the changes, which was an outgrowth of the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century — also known as the Berger Commission — stating that Schenectady needed to reduce the number of medical beds provided.

“There’s not much you can do about it. Money makes the world move,” he added.

The vigil was organized by Elisabeth Smith, an operating room nurse at St. Clare’s. She said a fellow colleague said that they should do something to say goodbye to the facility.

“I think it was a great thing to do for people who have been there for so long,” she said.

She said that some people are still confused and upset about the changes. She said it is tough to see the third floor of the building is a “ghost town” as departments have been transferred.

“In our heart, it will always be St. Clare’s,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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