Fri, Mar 1, 2013
By Bryan Koenig
Supporters of Long Island College Hospital are due in court next week in an attempt to force SUNY Downstate Medical Center – which owns the hospital – to reconsider its decision to close LICH.
SUNY Downstate three weeks ago decided to close the hospital, despite a wave of protests from hospital employees and nurses. But the hospital was given a temporary reprieve Feb. 20 when a judge enjoined SUNY Downstate from moving to close LICH pending a hearing March 7.
The decision has given supporters, including the New York State Nurses Association and the 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East union, which represents hospital employees, a renewed sense of purpose in their drive to fight against the hospital’s closure. Among their efforts: a meeting on Thursday with community parents at a Park Slope school and a small outreach presence at the opening of the Fairway in Red Hook on Friday.
“We are reaching out to the community to let them know,” what’s happening with the hospital, said Hardley Hill, a night nurse at LICH and co-chair of the State Nurses Association’s bargaining unit for the hospital.
The Nurses Association, 1199 and Concerned Physicians of LICH have petitioned the state Supreme Court in Kings County to vacate SUNY Downstate’s decision to close the hospital. They allege in court documents that the SUNY Board of Trustees’ Hospital Committee improperly discussed LICH’s closure in an executive session Feb. 7, a violation of New York State’s Open Meetings law. As a public institution, SUNY is required to keep all meetings open to the public, with limited exceptions.
LICH supporters want SUNY Downstate to restart the decision-making process and allow for a more extensive review of LICH’s potential closure with the state Department of Health. “The potential is to tell SUNY ‘you have to do this over again’,” said Richard Seltzer, a lawyer representing LICH’s supporters.
A spokesman for SUNY Downstate declined to comment on ongoing litigation. “The judge has not ruled at all on the merits of the case,” said Scott Greenberg. According to Greenberg, LICH’s planned closure is aimed at shoring up the rest of SUNY Downstate’s hospitals, University Hospital and Bay Ridge hospital. “LICH has lost money for 17 years in a row,” he said.
The property LICH occupies has been valued in the hundreds of millions, a potentially very lucrative sale for SUNY Downstate.
Any monetary loss on LICH’s part has not been due to a lack of patients, Hill said. In fact, 210 out of the hospital’s 250 beds were full on Thursday. The hospital’s beds have been 90 percent full for most of the last year, he said.
Hill said that he had heard from other hospitals who were concerned with potential patient overflows if LICH closes. “Can you imagine what will happen if the hospital is closed?” he said. “I can imagine.”