By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Johnny L. Baynes issued a ruling on Thursday vacating the State University of New York's vote to close Long Island College Hospital — but SUNY quickly responded that it would cure the procedural deficiencies cited by Judge Baynes and move next week to put LICH back on its death march.
Judge Baynes found that the SUNY board of trustees violated the state's open meetings law in its kill-LICH vote.
He permanently enjoined SUNY from taking any action to close the Cobble Hill hospital until it abides by the open meetings Law and all other applicable statutory provisions.
Thursday's ruling could not in itself stop SUNY from killing LICH, but it buys supporters of the hospital more time while SUNY is forced to retrace its steps.
But not much time, according to a statement released by SUNY late Thursday.
"We strongly disagree with the court’s interpretation of the events surrounding the Board of Trustees vote, and the ruling hinges on a procedural technicality and does not question SUNY or Downstate's legal ability to seek closure for LICH," SUNY said.
"Since time is of the essence, next week the Board will re-consider the recommendation to submit a closure plan to the Department of Health. SUNY Downstate is in a financial crisis. We are working diligently to preserve medical education, high quality patient care, and thousands of jobs for the Brooklyn community. Inaction and the status quo are simply not an option if we have any chance of succeeding."
In a joint statement, the New York State Nurses Association, doctors from LICH, and members of the United healthcare Workers east called the ruling “a huge victory for Brooklyn patients and caregivers.”
The ruling comes after another judge — Justice Betsy Barros — issued a temporary restraining order barring SUNY from closing the hospital or communicating with the Department of Health about its closure plan for LICH.
“This ruling validates what nurses have been saying all along: SUNY acted unlawfully and irresponsibly when they voted to close our community hospital,” said Jill Furillo, RN, Executive Director of the New York State Nurses Association. “We’re going to keep working together to build a powerful coalition to protect Brooklyn patients and keep LICH open for care.”
Dr. Toomas Sorra, a representative of Concerned Physicians for LICH said, “We are very pleased with Judge Baynes’ ruling. Patients, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, community organizations and elected representatives are unified in our efforts to keep LICH open as a full-service hospital well in to the future, as it has been for more than 150 years.
“Closing LICH would deprive Brooklyn of a critical health care resource and leave multiple Brooklyn neighborhoods without appropriate access to an emergency room and other necessary health care services,” he added.
At a hearing last Friday, Judge Baynes heard argument and extended the Temporary Restraining Order pending his decision.