State A.G., comptroller must OK LICH sale to Fortis first
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NYU-Langone still has a way to go before taking over the operation of the walk-in emergency department at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn.
SUNY will continue operating the Cobble Hill emergency department (ED) until the state attorney general and state comptroller approve the deal selling the entire LICH complex to developer Fortis Property Group. NYU also needs final approval from the state Supreme Court and the state Department of Health to operate the ED; it received contingent DOH approval in June.
In a statement, NYU said it would take over the ED within two business days following regulatory approvals.
When asked about a timeline for their decision, a spokesperson for the New York State Comptroller’s Office said the office does not comment on contracts that are under review. The New York State Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for information by press time.
On Sept. 29, a Brooklyn judge dismissed a lawsuit by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), allowing NYU to take over the department – all that remains of LICH -- without rehiring LICH nurses.
In Fortis’ proposal to buy LICH, NYU had committed to giving current LICH nurses first priority in hiring. Nurses say, however, that they were never informed of job openings and only stumbled upon them online.
Local officials and residents had backed the nurses’ suit, and have demanded that Fortis-NYU keep the commitments that were made in Fortis’ proposal to buy LICH.
Some current employees were told on Thursday that their jobs would be extended until Oct. 26.
NYU said in a statement, “NYU Langone will commence operation of a full-service ED as soon as the transaction receives all necessary regulatory and governmental approvals. To allow time to deploy staff and finalize preparations at the site, NYU Langone has committed to commence clinical operations at the interim ED within two business days following the receipt of all approvals.”
NYU said it has spent more than $5 million “to upgrade the ED, address pre-existing facility issues and install IT infrastructure, cabling, and medical equipment to support world-class emergency care.”
NYU added, “A comprehensive, interdisciplinary team of more than 100 skilled clinicians and support staff has been hired to operate the interim ED on a 24/7 basis, including clerks, technicians, registrars, nurses, physicians, specialists, and radiologists.”
SUNY has been treating walk-in patients in the small pediatric ED while NYU works on the adult space. Plywood planks still cover the ambulance bay. The LICH ED is not accepting ambulances yet, missing a Sept. 1 target date.
Officials have been pushing for the immediate return of ambulance service to LICH. Since LICH was put on ambulance diversion, ERs across Brooklyn have become overwhelmed, with stretchers and paramedics filling emergency department hallways, creating delays throughout the system.
SUNY closed LICH after nearly two years of community protests and legal action. A coalition of community organizations, health care providers and elected officials has maintained that northwest Brooklyn’s exploding population needs a full-service hospital, not a “walk-in” emergency department which will not be able to treat serious conditions.
A person familiar with the work done in the LICH ambulance bay said that an air conditioning unit surrounded by a chain link fence and metal bollards has been installed on the landing where ambulances unload patients. “The driver doesn't have clearance to open the door if the ambulance backs up into the bay,” the source said.
An NYU spokesperson had no immediate information about the ambulance bay installation.
In late June, the Department of Health received an application from NYU to build a $5.8 million ambulatory surgery center in a LICH building at 97 Amity Street. An NYU spokesperson had no immediate information about this application.
The application has been withdrawn, according to DOH’s website, which gives the update status as Oct. 3.
NYU has said it plans to build a $150 million ambulatory health facility in the future at the LICH site.