May 14, 2014
Brooklyn Pols Ask State to Keep LICH Open Beyond Deadline
By Dan Goldberg
Several local elected officials are asking SUNY to go above and beyond the requirements of a legal settlement and keep Long Island College Hospital open until a new temporary operator is found.
“We are concerned that the current timetable to establish a new owner and operator of Long Island Hospital College may jeopardize the continued provision of healthcare services at that site,” the letter sent on Tuesday to SUNY chair Carl McCall said. “We ask that you take all necessary steps to ensure that medical services remain continuous and uninterrupted through the period of time during which ownership and operation of LICH is transitioned to a new entity.”
The letter was signed by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Senator Daniel Squadron and Councilmen Brad Lander, Carlos Menchaca and Stephen Levin.
Community supporters and health care unions have fought for over a year against the hospital's closure, but SUNY officials say that even after recent cost-cutting measures it loses more than $10 million each month.
A settlement between SUNY, labor unions and community groups reached in February allows the state entity, which operates LICH, to close the Cobble Hill hospital on May 22. The state would still own the property, and would continue to negotiate the best deal it can.
McCall, who was appointed to his position by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has repeatedly said that he would entertain the notion of keeping the hospital open beyond that deadline if a deal with a new operator was within reach. But it is not clear when such deal could be finalized.
SUNY is currently negotiating with The Peebles Corporation, which is partnered with Maimonides Medical Center and North Shore-LIJ in a bid to operate LICH.
Negotiations with the previous leading bidder, Brooklyn Health Partners, fell apart when SUNY and other interested parties (including Mayor Bill de Blasio, who got himself arrested during the mayoral campaign at a demonstration in support of the hospital) determined that the bidder's development and health care goals weren't attainable.
A deal must be reached by the first week in June or SUNY is obligated to begin talks with a third bidder, The Fortis Property Group.
De Blasio, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday in Brooklyn, said he is "confident that as SUNY now turns to the second bidder in the process, maybe the third bidder ... They'll keep looking until they get it right."
"One of the things we have to do here is get it right once and for all, and I'm convinced that's going to happen and we're going to work very hard to keep the continuity of health care service while that is being worked out," de Blasio said.
SUNY, in preparation for closure, has already begun ramping down service.
The state health department requires that patients are not caught off guard when the hospital officially closes.
“We are troubled by the reduction of LICH’s Emergency Department services, which as you know provides essential and lifesaving care to the communities we represent,” the letter said. “We have heard reports that services are being dramatically diminished and that ambulance services are being diverted to other hospitals. We ask that services be restored.”