No settlement reached in talks
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
State University of New York (SUNY) and Department of Health officials have been ordered to appear before a Brooklyn judge at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to answer for their yearlong attempts to close Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in violation of court orders.
The hearing had been postponed several times to allow negotiations between attorneys for SUNY and LICH supporters to take place.
A source told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday afternoon that there was “no settlement,” and the contempt hearing against SUNY, the SUNY Board of Trustees, and SUNY Downstate’s Dr. John Williams will take place as scheduled at 360 Adams Street, Room 469 before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes.
LICH's supporters say it's about time. "Watch history in the making tomorrow in Justice Baynes's courtroom," the Cobble Hill Association said in a tweet after the news came out.
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle told the Eagle late Monday, “As demonstrated by the growing support of elected officials across Brooklyn to quickly resolve the crisis, SUNY's process and the path with which we got to this point have been above reproach. We continue to act in good faith to reach a viable long-term solution, and if and when a hearing occurs SUNY's legal team is prepared to defend the institution."
SUNY stands accused of a substantial number of violations in their rush to close the hospital, which is sitting on valuable Brownstone Brooklyn real estate.
Recently, the SUNY board heard the pitches of four developers competing in a second round of the disputed RFP (Request for Proposals) process.
SUNY has been trying to close a deal as quickly as possible, but has become entangled in a web of legal actions brought by a coalition of local community groups, unions and elected officials, who are calling for a totally new, transparent Request for Proposals (RFP) process that “respond to the health care needs of the community."
On April 1, 2013, state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes issued the first of a half-dozen orders requiring SUNY to maintain services at LICH – originally at the April 1 level and later at the July 19 level -- and temporarily restraining SUNY from taking “any action in furtherance of the closure plan.”
Plaintiffs claim that SUNY violated the orders on an almost daily basis.
After the first order was issued, SUNY allegedly canceled LICH’s residency and fellowship program, ended labor and delivery services, canceled non-ambulatory surgeries, closed LICH’s outpatient psychiatric clinic, and stopped scheduling medical procedures.
In June, despite another court order, SUNY terminated ambulance delivery, jamming ERs across Brooklyn and causing an outcry from residents and officials.
SUNY later ended admissions to the hospital, transferred patients to other institutions, halted the scheduling of endoscopies and chemotherapy treatment, and finally, ended all outpatient procedures. Over the summer SUNY illegally sent notices of termination to 6,500 patients of LICH’s clinics. The court ordered SUNY to retract this notice.
Other alleged acts of contempt include SUNY’s cuts to physician compensations, “abusive employment practices;” and requiring patients to sign a “false waiver.”
Some estimates put the monetary value of the medical services turned away from LICH by SUNY at roughly $200 million.
SUNY has repeatedly told the press it is losing $13 million a month at LICH.
The hearing on the contempt charges has been postponed several times already. Attorney Walden told the Brooklyn Eagle last month, “Our proof is overwhelming.”
Walden said he has assembled evidence that paints “a compelling picture of at least 11 instances of SUNY’s willful violations of the Courts’ orders, including orders issued by the Appellate Division for the Second Department.”
If the hearing takes place as planned, SUNY’s entire board of trustees, including Chairman H. Carl McCall, administrators from SUNY Downstate and Nirav R. Shah, Commissioner of the state Department of Health, could be appearing before Justice Baynes.
If found guilty of the charges, the defendants face “a fine or imprisonment, or both.”
Groups fighting SUNY include six local community groups (Boerum Hill Association, Brooklyn Heights Association, Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, Cobble Hill Association, Riverside Tenants Association, and Wykoff Gardens Association, Inc),, elected officials, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), 1199 SEIU, Concerned Physicians of LICH and Patients for LICH.
Other legal proceedings in the coalition’s fight to keep LICH open are playing out in the courtroom of state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest.