Court order calls for full service until May 22
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Long Island College Hospital (LICH) supporters say they are evaluating their legal options after receiving notice from SUNY Downstate Medical Center that the hospital will not be accepting ambulances starting Monday, May 12 at 7 a.m.
According to a letter addressed to patients signed by Michael Miller, Interim CEO of LICH, the ambulance diversion is taking place “due to the scheduled closure of the hospital on May 22.”
“The diversion is permanent,” he wrote. “When 9-1-1 is called, the Emergency Medical Services division of the Fire Department of New York will take patients by ambulance to the other area hospitals. Walk in patients to LICH will receive medical screening and stabilizing treatment until May 22.”
An agreement reached after a long legal battle over the future of LICH, a 155-yar-old hospital in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, calls for SUNY to exit operations on May 22. But nurses and other health care workers say that SUNY has been prematurely closing down departments, eliminating personnel and removing equipment for weeks, and the ambulance diversion is just the latest salvo that may leave LICH floundering before a new group can take it over.
Only three nurses’ aides were working in the ER over the April 22 weekend, one nurse said, and no nurses’ aids in the ICU at all that Sunday. “This is a clear violation to the agreement and not fair to the patients either, they deserve more,” she said.
“SUNY did not negotiate for the right to divert ambulances on May 12th – period, full stop,” said attorney Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who represents community groups and the public advocate in the long legal battle to keep LICH open.
“If it felt diversion was necessary prior to closure, it could have – but did not – negotiate for that. As we just learned of this new twist, we are evaluating our options and in discussions to resolve the situation,” he said late Thursday.
According to the Stipulation and Order issued under state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes on February 21, “SUNY shall maintain the current level of medical services at LICH between the execution date” (February 21) and the closure date of May 22, “absent an act of force majeure.”
Dr. Alice Garner, Chief of the Neonatal unit at LICH, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “We were all astonished by SUNY's actions after the many hours of negotiations. Our lawyers have been informed and are exploring our options.” She said that she had “confidence in Jim Walden's team.”
“The fight to save LICH continues and appears to grow more and more intense for all involved,” she added.
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle told the Eagle on Friday, “As agreed to by all parties and mandated by the court, SUNY will exit the operation of Long Island College Hospital on May 22nd. During this transition period SUNY is committed to ensuring a safe, orderly, and responsible process and is following standard protocol as required by state regulations.”
He added, “Our initial position was May 7th but the petitioners insisted on a later date and we agreed to extend to May 22 by mitigating costs, so we obliged the petitioners. And as I said before, implicit in any hospital closure is a winding down for the single purpose of patient safety.”
A call to the state Department of Health for details of the closure plan was not answered by press time.
SUNY is in negotiations with Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP), the group which won the bidding war for LICH earlier this month with a $250 million proposal that includes maintaining a full-service hospital at the site, along with developing 1,000 residential units.
BHP must put down a $25 million deposit by May 4 to close the deal, and then has to obtain a temporary hospital operating license. Merrell Schexnydre, the chairman and CEO of Brooklyn Health Partners, committed to operating a 150-bed “bridge” hospital at LICH as part of the proposal, so there would be minimal gap in health care services while the larger project is developed.
According to The Real Deal, Atlantic Partners Lofts LLC, a Borough Park investment group “active in the acquisition of New York City hospitals,” recently bought a 49 percent stake in Brooklyn Health Partners.
Eagle sources said Atlantic Partners Lofts was created on April 17, 2014.
Donnette Dunbar, spokesperson for BHP, says she is holding off on commenting while contract discussions continue. She told the Eagle on Friday, “We are still knee-deep in negotiations with SUNY.”
On Friday Crain’s reported the financing group HKS Capital Partners -- pointing to the Domino Sugar redevelopment plan -- suggested that the de Blasio administration would allow denser and higher development on the LICH campus if a higher percentage of housing was affordable.
Dunbar refuted this claim on Friday afternoon. She told the Eagle, “Various reports that Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP) has made land use decisions concerning the Long Island College Hospital campus are absolutely false.
“BHP's sole focus is closing with the State University of New York so it can began to provide medical services to the citizens of Brooklyn, as promised.
“When the time is appropriate, we will sit with the various community stakeholders and discuss how we will build a 21st century collaborative product that all of New York can be proud of.”