Wanted: Full-service hospital at LICH
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A new, revised Request for Proposals (RFP) for Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn was issued by the State University of New York (SUNY) and goes into effect on Wednesday.
Designed with the input of advocates for LICH, the new RFP is meant to attract bids from parties looking to operate LICH as a full-service hospital, and who can offer other services "consistent with the health needs of the community."
Beginning Wednesday, bidders interested in purchasing the 20-building hospital complex, located in the heart of booming brownstone Brooklyn, have 15 business days – until March 19 at 3 p.m. – to submit their best proposals. Evaluators will have until March 26 to consider and rank the proposals.
All interested bidders are required to attend a presentation at the SUNY College of Optometry, 33 West 42nd Street, on Monday, March 3 at 5 p.m. Mandatory site visits take place March 4 and 5.
Questions are due March 11 by 5 p.m.; answers will be provided on March 14.
The complete RFP is posted online at http://www.suny.edu/hospitals/downstate/newrfp/.
The RFP was issued after state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes gave his final approval on Monday to a sweeping settlement between SUNY, the state Department of Health, and a coalition of LICH supporters including six community groups, patients, Public Advocate Letitia James, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), Physicians for LICH, and 1199SEIU.
Also signing off were state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest, the Appellate Division, and the Attorney General.
“Once the cloud of litigation is removed from the equation, we believe the prices will only go up, not down,” attorney Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher said Friday. Walden represents six community groups which fought SUNY's attempts to close LICH.
“From Red Hook to Dumbo, this community is united behind a single goal: making a new hospital on the LICH campus wildly successful.," he said. "This community is willing to work, arm-in-arm, with bidders toward achieving that goal. We look forward to making this the site of the most vibrant and successful hospital in the City of New York.”
SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall said in a statement, “We are grateful for the continued cooperation of elected leaders, community and labor groups, and the general public. I am confident that, together, we have reached an agreement that ensures an open and transparent RFP process, which will culminate in a new operator for LICH who can meet the needs of all interested parties.”
LICH's service area covers a large swath of Brooklyn ranging from Red Hook to Williamsburg, including Downtown Brooklyn -– all areas exploding with new residential and business development.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “There's been extraordinary interest. This is an area of this city that has been booming in every sense, in gaining population, and there was a lot of interest last year. There's been a lot of interest in recent months. There will be a lot of interest again.”
More than 3,330 housing units are currently under construction in Downtown Brooklyn, and almost 12,000 more units are in the works, according to a recent report by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
Residential towers and hotels are sprouting up in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, as well as Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gowanus and Williamsburg. LICH is the also the only hospital accessible to medically underserved Red Hook and developing waterfront areas.
Based on the current census data and the DOH numbers for certified beds, Brooklyn has just two hospital beds for every 1,000 residents. Manhattan, by comparison, has five hospital beds for every 1,000 residents, according to figures obtained by the NYSNA.
More RFP details:
Responses offering a full-service hospital facility will receive more points from the evaluators. Proposals that include a teaching hospital or an affiliation with a teaching hospital will be ranked even higher.
Proposals that provide for the maintenance of some health care operations during the interim period between SUNY's withdrawal -- which could come as soon as May 7 -- and the implementation of the bidder's plan will also get extra points.
A minimum purchase price of $210 million has been set for the campus, which ranges from core LICH hospital buildings – including the Fuller Pavilion, Othmer Pavilion, Polak Pavilion and Henry Street building – to surrounding “non-core” offices, clinics and ambulatory care space.
The properties also include a seven-story parking garage, an engineer building, condominium units on Atlantic Avenue, a dialysis center and numerous residential buildings.
If proceeds of the sale of LICH exceed $240 million (and there are already offers higher than this on the table), 25 percent of the amount over $240 million will go to a non-profit entity chosen by the Public Advocate and the petitioners (those involved in the lawsuit against SUNY).
There are no guarantees written into the settlement. If there are no suitable bids by May 22, LICH will close.
At least one of the previous bidders, the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization (CCACO), told the Brooklyn Eagle that they will again be proposing a full-service hospital, starting with 100 beds and growing. CCACO is partnering with developer and businessman John Catsimatidis and Rudy Washington, who have not yet presented their development plans.
A standstill agreement, which had fended off layoffs at LICH while the litigation was ongoing, ends now that a settlement has been reached. Rumors of layoffs had been percolating through the New York State Nurses Association and 1199 SEIU healthcare workers union since Friday.
On Tuesday, SUNY said that it will “initiate the right-sizing of LICH staff while maintaining current services.”
Nurses at LICH have been among the most dedicated of those fighting to keep LICH open, rallying in the heat, rain and snow, and continuing to come to work every day despite receiving countless closure and layoff notices.
Linda O’Neil, a nurse at LICH for 31 years, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday that she had not yet been informed of SUNY’s “right-sizing” statement, but said that she has been threatened with layoffs by SUNY on a regular basis for a year.
“From the beginning, there has a threat of possible layoffs every three weeks,” she said. “I have a stack of letters from Staffco.
“Contrary to what has been reported in some of the media, the fight is a lot bigger than just jobs,” O’Neil said. “The priority has been righting the horrible wrongs carried out at LICH at the hands of SUNY, and to stop the trend of closures of full service hospitals without any consideration of the communities affected."
Despite "a year of harassment and uncertainty, we knew we had to stay and fight,” she said. “If we allowed those doors to close, it would have been one more hospital down as part of this trend. As nurses, we have an obligation to the community – to safeguard them and be advocates for them.”
“We’re hopeful about the RFP,” she added. “There’s a gem waiting for the new operator right in the heart of Cobble Hill.”