Ambulance diversion starts Thursday, doors close May 22
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The May 22 closure of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) draws closer, and SUNY has already begun shutting down services at the Cobble Hill hospital.
Elected officials in Brooklyn wrote on Tuesday to SUNY chairman H. Carl McCall to ask that health care continue uninterrupted at LICH until a new owner takes possession of the historic institution, which they called vital to neighborhoods from Red Hook to DUMBO.
According to FDNY, SUNY plans to begin diverting ambulances and halting new-patient admissions, labor and delivery and other services at 7 a.m. Thursday, as part of what they say is in the closure plan approved by the state Department of Health (DOH).
DOH will not release details of the closure plan to the public or to litigants seeking to keep LICH open until a new owner takes over.
Public Advocate Letitia James, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and Councilmembers Brad Lander, Stephen Levin and Carlos Menchaca wrote in their May 13 letter, “We are troubled by the reduction of LICH’s Emergency Department services, which as you know provides essential and lifesaving care to the communities we represent. We have heard reports that services are being dramatically diminished and that ambulance services are being diverted to other hospitals. We ask that services be restored.”
The officials also asked for a meeting with McCall and DOH officials. (See full text of letter below.)
Nurses told the Brooklyn Eagle that Brooklyn hospitals closest to LICH already had long wait times in their emergency departments, and expected higher mortality rates in northwestern Brooklyn. “If you are having a heart attack or stroke, the longer you wait, the higher your chances are for severe, irreparable damage,” said long-time LICH nurse Desire Gadsen.
A court settlement calls for continuing services at LICH until May 22. DOH says the closures have been approved as part of a service “ramp down.”
Adding to the pressure, on Tuesday, the top-ranked bidder for LICH, Brooklyn Health Partners (BHP), lost their case in court to take over the hospital. SUNY has begun negotiations with the second-ranked bidder, the developer Peebles Corp. But there is no guarantee that SUNY will be able to reach an agreement with Peebles, and litigation may further drag out a handover. Peebles does not plan to operate a hospital on the LICH campus, but will provide space for ambulatory health services and emergency care.
On Thursday, six community groups and the Concerned Physicians of LICH will be appearing before state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes to ask him to restore medical services, and to throw out some questionable scores submitted by panelists in the state’s RFP (Request for Proposals) bidding process. Contrary to the terms of the settlement, six of the evaluators gave their highest score to non-hospital operators.
Officials say that the current timetable could “jeopardize the continued provision of healthcare services” at LICH, and that “continuity of urgent medical services is a pressing priority for our constituents.”
“It is our understanding that contract negotiations with the next qualifying bidder may conclude by June 4, 2014. We ask that SUNY maintains operations up and until a hand-off date,” they wrote.
Brendan Brosh, spokesperson for Public Advocate Letitia James, said in a statement, “It is vitally important that medical services are uninterrupted at LICH. Too many communities like Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn and other neighborhoods rely on this hospital. We hope that SUNY will recognize the severity of this issue and stop the diminution of services immediately.”
At a press conference in Red Hook on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was a strong advocate for LICH during his tenure as Public Advocate, told reporters he was confidant a long-term solution could be found. “I think what we want to do here is get the long-term healthcare provider in place immediately, and that's going to allow us, then, to take the other steps to secure health care for the community." He called the situation, "Deja vu all over again. This is exactly where we were, less than a year ago. We managed to fight it back, and fix it, and get it right, and I'm very confident we'll do it again.” The May 22 closure of Long Island College Hospital (LICH) draws closer, but SUNY has already begun shutting down services at the Cobble Hill hospital.
Letter from elected official to H. Carl McCall:
May 13, 2014
H. Carl McCall, Chairman
Board of Trustees
State University of New York
Albany, NY 12246
Dear Chairman McCall:
We the undersigned elected officials represent constituents impacted by the transition at SUNY Downstate at Long Island College Hospital (LICH). We are concerned that the current timetable to establish a new owner and operator of Long Island Hospital College may jeopardize the continued provision of healthcare services at that site. We ask that you take all necessary steps to ensure that medical services remain continuous and uninterrupted through the period of time during which ownership and operation of LICH is transitioned to a new entity.
Continuity of urgent medical services is a pressing priority for our constituents. It is our understanding that contract negotiations with the next qualifying bidder may conclude by June 4, 2014. We ask that SUNY maintains operations up and until a hand-off date.
In addition, we are troubled by the reduction of LICH’s Emergency Department services, which as you know provides essential and lifesaving care to the communities we represent. We have heard reports that services are being dramatically diminished and that ambulance services are being diverted to other hospitals. We ask that services be restored.
Lastly, we respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss these concerns. It is critical that representatives from the Department of Health also be present at this meeting, as they are necessary partner in addressing any transition concerns. It is imperative that the transition process move forward in good faith and in a timely way, with meaningful community participation from the many neighborhoods that LICH serves—to ensure there are not any lapses in service.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. We look forward to meeting with you.
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez
State Senator Daniel Squadron
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Public Advocate Letitia James
Councilmember Brad Lander
Councilmember Stephen Levin
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca