Promises immediate 150-bed 'bridge' facility
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
SUNY Chairman Carl McCall and Associate Vice Chancellor Lora Lefebvre announced at a trustee meeting on Thursday that a non-profit group proposing a full-service hospital, Brooklyn Health Partners Development Group, was the winner in the bidding war to take over Long Island College Hospital (LICH).
Under the plan, Brooklyn Health Partners would build a new 300-400 bed full-service hospital at the site of the current LICH complex in Cobble Hill, using the Fuller and Othmer Pavilions, the Polhemus building and part of the Amity Pavilion. It would create a mixed-use “medical district” in the surrounding sites with medical offices, residential and commercial development.
An ambitious array of health services are proposed, including medical/surgical, pediatrics, intensive care, coronary care, maternity, pediatric ICU, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and adult inpatient psychiatry. Outpatient services would include emergency, ambulance, prenatal and family planning, primary and specialty care, rehabilitation therapy, ambulatory, and mental health.
The proposal calls for construction to begin two to three years after closing, according to Brooklyn Health Partner's response to SUNY's reissued RFP. This assumes, however, that the parties reach an agreement within 30 days. The proposal also has to be approved by a host of state and city agencies including the state Comptroller, the Department of Buildings, the Department of Health and the Attorney General. State Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Demarest will also be looking at aspects of the transfer involving the Othmer bequest.
The president of Brooklyn Health Partners is Merrell G. Schexnydre; the hospital would be operated by Quorum Health Resources.
Most important to local residents, a “bridge facility” would open immediately, which would include a 150-bed hospital with ER, ambulatory care, ICU and other medical services. Brooklyn Health Partners has pledged to continue to employ at least 300 healthcare workers to provide care during the bridge operation of the hospital, and an additional 2,000 when the new hospital opens.
On the real estate side, the proposal includes 1,000 units of residential development, 30 percent affordable, along with some park space. The team will seek to rezone the non-core properties, but there is no assurance the zoning changes will be approved.
After 20 – 30 years, title to medical properties would be transferred to the community, according to the group’s proposal. Brooklyn Health Partners bid $250 million for LICH.
“Selecting a new operator of the LICH site will allow SUNY to return to its core academic mission while continuing to serve Brooklyn’s health care by stabilizing University Hospital and our vital medical school,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We will now begin working with our partners in government on finalizing the contract and completing the deal.”
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said in a statement, “SUNY will work with BHP to make the transition as smooth as possible, allowing the community to have the health care services they desire and SUNY to return to its important and ongoing mission to protect and preserve SUNY Downstate.” SUNY plans to walk away from LICH on May 22.
“This is encouraging news for families from Red Hook to Downtown Brooklyn,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was instrumental in the fight to keep LICH open during his days as Public Advocate. “Now that the process has spoken, it’s time to deliver the long-term, sustainable healthcare facility this community needs. Last summer, the doors to LICH were on the verge of being padlocked and the entire facility shut down. Now, we are closer to an outcome that puts the safety and health of this community first.” De Blasio is widely credited for his campaign to draw attention to the negative consequences of closing LICH, and was famously arrested in an act of civil disobediance in the effort.
Under a unique agreement worked out under the guidance of state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes and agreed to by SUNY, 1199SEIU, NYSNA, Concerned Physicians for LICH and six community groups, SUNY's Request for Proposals (RFP) was reissued with the goal of keeping LICH operating as a full-service hospital. The agreement also gave the community a seat at the table in determining the new operator, with a 49 percent vote on the panel's Technical Committee.
"The choice of a hospital vindicates our struggle," said Jeff Strabone, spokesperson for the Cobble Hill Association. "Now we need to be on SUNY and DOH like a hawk to make sure they don't obstruct or delay licensing. We will partner with the winning team to make the new LICH great." Strabone said that the six community groups involved in the LICH litigation planned to meet with Brooklyn Health Partners.
Brooklyn Heights Association board member Susan Shepard said, "We welcome the selection of an operator who will provide a full-service hospital. As SUNY said in its own 2011 court papers, 'Kings County has a relatively low hospital bed ratio of 2.5 hospital beds per 1000 residents. For this reason it is critical to patients and to the community that LICH remain open and viable.' Since then, additional hospitals have closed in Brooklyn placing added pressure on existing hospital resources, and the borough continues to grow at an unprecedented rate."
Jim Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, attorney for the community groups and the Public Advocate in the LICH litigation, said, "We are quite pleased that the process, though bumpy, produced what we always knew it could: an operator of a full-service hospital. The community is united in making sure it succeeds."
Susan Raboy, spokesperson for Patients for LICH, said she was extremely happy that a full service hospital won the bid. "The group guaranteed a smooth transition, keeping the staff, returning full services and the appropriate number of beds," she told the Brooklyn Eagle. Raboy was also pleased the group is offering a bridge facility. "I actually met them the day of the tour. I met Larry English and was very impressed with his dedication to a full service hospital.
"The downside, however, if negotiations fall through," she added, "is that the next two in line are not full-service hospitals. I'm confident that in good faith the negotiations will go forward."
Charlene Nimmons, President of Wyckoff Gardens Association, said she was very pleased with the outcome. "They came to us, they heard our voice for a full-service hospital. I'm really excited that's what we're getting. We need to stand behind them, fight for them, and make sure that nothing goes wrong."
Unions 'cautiously optimistic'
“1199 caregivers are cautiously optimistic about this proposal for a full-service hospital, which the community and patients have been fighting for throughout the process of keeping LICH open,” said Kevin Finnegan, 1199’s Director of Politics and Legislation in a statement. “We hope that Brooklyn Health Partners will work cooperatively with the community, the state and healthcare workers toward continuity and enhancement of care for the patients that depend on LICH. We will continue to stand with our coalition of patients, NYSNA nurses, doctors and elected officials for the best possible outcome.”
“NYSNA nurses have stood strong and rallied alongside patients, 1199SEIU caregivers, doctors, and elected leaders for the past year to save LICH,” said NYSNA Executive Director Jill Furillo. “Our coalition has fought tirelessly to preserve LICH as the full-service hospital that Brooklyn patients need – but our work is not done. We must ensure that LICH patients have a seamless transfer of care, LICH does not close for any period of time, and that the Brooklyn Health Partners team treats LICH employees and their collective bargaining representatives with respect. We will continue to work with all parties, including the state, to guarantee continuity of care and the right outcome for the community served by LICH.”
“It has always been the desire of the communities I represent to have a full service hospital at LICH. Following today’s decision, I am very pleased that the SUNY Board of Trustees has recognized this desire and chosen the Brooklyn Health Partners,” said Assemblywoman Joan Millman. “I look forward to working with the State Department of Health and all concerned stakeholders to ensure a quality, state of the art, full service hospital is created at the LICH campus. This ensures the continuous delivery of healthcare services for the neighborhoods served by LICH.”
The fact that proposals by Peebles Corp. and Fortis Property Group, neither offering hospitals as part of their proposals, were ranked second, and third caused some consternation among the attendees. One LICH supporter surmised that the "less informed" among the panel members were "swayed by Mount Sinai and North Shore-LIJ being attached to the Peebles proposal."
The reissued RFP calls for more points being awarded for a full service hospital, and also more points for affiliation with a medical school. Another proposal offered by the Chinese Community Accountable Care Organization, ranked eighth in the process, meets both of these stipulations.
Brooklyn Health Partners scored 64.23 points; Peebles scored 62.76, while Fortis scored 61.61.
If negotiations fall through, SUNY will move to the proposal ranked second.
Updated: April 3, 8:45 p.m. with additional comments from community groups.