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January 14, 2013

Oneonta's Homer Folks Hospital closed in 1973

To some, it was inevitable. For others it was a time to choke back tears. Overall, it was a major punch in the gut to the local economy, as Gov. Nelson Rockefeller called for the closure of Oneonta’s Homer Folks Hospital with the release of his state budget in January 1973. We know this former tuberculosis hospital to be today’s Job Corps Academy on upper West Street.

The closing was the front page headline of The Oneonta Star of Wednesday, Jan. 17, 1973. Homer Folks Hospital had been a landmark in the Oneonta area since its opening in 1935, and it was the only remaining tuberculosis inpatient treatment center in the state. Capable of handling 200 patients, the hospital had only 66 at the time of the announcement. Those in good enough health returned to their homes, while others were transferred to area hospitals for continued treatment.

“The state has not closed down Homer Folks Hospital — medical science has,” read a Star article that day.

“Advances in the care of tuberculosis and earlier detection of the disease have changed dramatically in the past 20 years, making the long-term hospital care at Homer Folks Hospital unnecessary.”

“We’ve got the disease down to where it is not a great problem,” Homer Folks administrator Dr. James Monroe said.

While this was good news from a medical perspective, the hospital’s closure meant a loss of jobs for 177 employees, mostly before July 1 of that year.

The announcement came Tuesday night, Jan. 16, at a dinner meeting of the Civil Service Employees Association.

Irene Carr, a 15-year employee of the hospital and president of the Oneonta CSEA Chapter, had learned of the closing that morning by a phone call from the CSEA offices in Albany. Choking back tears, Carr told employees, “I just don’t know what to tell you.”

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