By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A petition urging SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall to come up with a plan to rescue Long Island College Hospital (LICH) gathered more than 1,500 signatures over the weekend.
Along with their signature, many past and present patients provided eloquent testimony about how the 150-year-old hospital, now threatened with imminent closure, saved their lives.
In 2009, triathelete Karin Linner experienced a severe headache while out for a 70-mile bike ride. After her ride she was talking to a friend on the phone when a blood clot dislodged from her carotid artery and traveled to her brain, causing a stroke.
If not for the fast action of doctors at LICH – they immediately gave her a drug to break up the clot, performed an angioplasty and implanted a stent – Linner’s life would not be the same today.
On the petition she writes, “Four years ago, I suffered a stroke at only 34 years old and in perfect health. The doctors and staff at LICH saved my life and acted correctly and quickly to ensure the very best outcome. I completely lost my speech but I could have been much worse. Rehab started right away in the hospital and I am now fully recovered.
“Thanks to the competency of LICH employees, I am doing as well as I am today,” Linner says. “I have completed two Ironman races post stroke!” Linner now lives in Boulder, Colorado.
Linner was not the only one who says she’s alive today thanks to the hospital. “LICH found my brain tumor and saved my life,” writes Brooklynite Kayla Eugio.
“My life was saved by hospital personnel,” says Elliot Green, a former resident of Brooklyn Heights.
Maria M. writes that signing the petition was important to her “because LICH saved both my parents’ lives this past year.”
The petition is just the latest move by Brooklyn supporters to save the Cobble Hill institution, failing after years of fiscal mismanagement. On Friday a rally drew roughly 200 protesters in spite of the freezing weather, and on Thursday nurses – saying LICH is in “critical condition” – handed out flyers on Atlantic Avenue and Hicks Street.
The online petition posted at change.org was set into motion by Assemblywoman Joan Millman and more than a dozen other Brooklyn representatives – including Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Borough President Marty Markowitz, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Council members Stephen Levin and Brad Lander.
David Doyle, spokesman for SUNY chairman Carl McCall, dropped a bomb in Borough Hall a week and a half ago when he told local pols that SUNY trustees had discussed closing LICH “in the near future.”
LICH provides health services to over 11,000 people per year, Assemblywoman Millman said .
“If LICH closes, what will happen to the 2,500 employees? If LICH closes, where will senior citizens from the Cobble Hill Health Center go when they are in need of emergency care? If LICH closes, where will a youngster go if he breaks his arm while playing in Carroll Park?” she asked. Millman noted that more than 1,000 people have been admitted to the emergency room at LICH for flu like symptoms in the last year alone.
“There must be an alternative that balances the books at SUNY Downstate and keeps LICH open,” she said.
Closing LICH won’t only affect Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and nearby neighborhoods, points out petitioner Jason Grunstein, who writes, “I am an emergency care medical provider for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. One third of the medical patients in need of emergency transport to a hospital from the Arena are sent to LICH ER for treatment. In my opinion, if this doesn't pass and LICH [is] ultimately forced to shut their doors the trickle effect will be seen throughout Brooklyn's ERs in longer wait times and worse medical care . . . “
LICH has been operated by SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush for the past two years. SUNY took over after LICH was abandoned by Continuum Health Partners in 2011. Many in Brooklyn are still bitter after LICH’s “merger” with Continuum left it stripped of assets, including valuable real estate. Continuum has also been accused of steering patients to the network’s Manhattan hospitals, such as Beth Israel.
A report from state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli issued January 17 confirmed that SUNY Downstate is “hemorrhaging millions of dollars every week.” The report called Downstate’s acquisition of two hospitals, LICH and Victory Memorial “a major cause of Downstate’s fiscal stress.”
LICH's remaining real estate holdings, however, are said to be worth a bundle. “There is no question that this would be a very valuable asset, and could likely fetch over 100 million dollars in a sale,” Timothy King, Managing Partner of Real Estate Services for CPEX, told the Brooklyn Eagle last Thursday.
King, who was a trustee at Brookdale Medical Center and was involved as a broker in selling the former St. Mary’s Hospital on behalf of St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, added, “Based on my experience, the closure and sale of a hospital is not easy or pretty.”
Other representatives working to save LICH include Congressmembers Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries; state Senators Velmanette Montgomery, Kevin Parker, Martin Malave Dilan, Diane Savino, Martin Golden, John Sampson, and Eric Adams; state Assembly members Alan Maisel, Joseph R. Lentol, Peter J. Abbate Jr., James Brennan, Alec Brook-Krasny, Felix Ortiz; and City Council Members Letitia James, Jumaane Williams, Diana Reyna, Domenic M. Recchia, Vincent Gentile, David Greenfield, Lew Fidler and Mathieu Eugene.