Manipulation’? Or ‘artful’ wording?
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Advocates for Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) say they’re contesting what they call RFP “manipulations” by the State University of New York (SUNY) that have led to the closure of the Cobble Hill hospital.
Attorney Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, told the Brooklyn Eagle that the LICH community filed a motion at state Supreme Court on Friday to throw out rankings by six of the hospital bid evaluators.
State Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, who has been overseeing the LICH fight for more than a year, will consider the petitioners’ motion Tuesday morning.
Supporters say that the evaluators did not follow instructions to award more points to full-service hospital proposals, the key feature of a landmark legal settlement.
One panelist gave no points at all to any of the four hospital bids, but the full 70 points to a developer, Fortis Property Group. Earlier this year, Fortis was SUNY’s first choice to buy the LICH campus.
SUNY lawyers say that they designed the RFP (Request for Proposals) to have wiggle room. During a May 21 hearing, attorney Frank Carone told state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes, "When we structured the elements, the language we used was artful.” As an example, Carone cited wording on the RFP to the effect that proposals offering a hospital "will be eligible for a higher technical score," though not necessarily entitled to one.
LICH supporters are expected to show up in force before the hearing for a 9 a.m. press conference before court on Tuesday.
Back to Fortis
SUNY has already rejected the bidders which came in first and second in the RFP rankings -- Brooklyn Health Partners, with a hospital proposal; and Peebles Corporation, a developer which pledged to keep the ER going and to conduct a community health needs survey.
Now SUNY has moved on to the bidder ranked number three -- SUNY’s original top choice, Fortis. Fortis is proposing a “walk-in” ER, but not a hospital.
One of the hospital operators bypassed was Prime Healthcare Foundation, which owns and operates 25 non-profit and for profit hospitals across the country. Prime was ranked fourth by the panel.
If the petitioners were successful in eliminating the “non-compliant” rankings, Prime’s $220 million bid could move into second-place.
Prime's attorney Andrew Zwerling said on May 21 that Prime was "ready, willing and able to provide a full-service acute care hospital” and had already begun the process of filing for a 2806 operating license.
Former LICH patients say they have begun to feel uneasy about their chances during an emergency. SUNY’s temporary “ER” at LICH can’t accept ambulances or handle serious health issues, and other Brooklyn ERs have become increasingly crowded.
Both Brooklyn Hospital Center (BHC) in Fort Greene and New York Methodist in Park Slope have seen their ER usage increase by thousands of patients this year, according to figures provided by the NYS Department of Health and the hospitals.
BHC's emergency department usage increased by 1,841 during the first four months of this year, while Methodist's saw an increase of 1,330 during the same time period.
Patients report stretchers lining hallways and 24-hour waits in ERs before hospital rooms open up.
On May 21 Danny Cruz, a Red Hook dad suffering from asthma, died after going without emergency oxygen for 45 minutes, the Red Hook Star reports. Cruz, a night watchman at the Prospect Park Rink, was eventually taken to Methodist after a long delay.
It is not clear if Cruz would have survived had LICH still been in operation, but it is undisputed that the closest hospital to Red Hook is now closed, and that the LICH ambulances are not running.
In a letter to the Eagle, long-time LICH physician Dr. Alice Garner wrote, "Another death has occurred due to delay in treatment at LICH! How many deaths will occur until someone expresses outrage . . .?"
Brooklyn Hospital Center announced last week it is raising funds to double the size of its Emergency Department. LICH nurse Julie Semente, a member of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said that northwest Brooklyn still needed LICH. "In an emergency, seconds matter," she said.
Desire Gadsden, a nurse at LICH for 34 years, warned that hospitals in Manhattan wouldn’t be able to help in an emergency. "If you are having a heart attack, stroke, asthma attack or you are bleeding out, a ride across the river won't save you," she said.
Gadsden was laid off on LICH's last day as a hospital, May 22. "I was the nurse who transferred the last patient out on that date at 5:35 p.m.; I will never forget that day," she said.
‘We’re watching them’
Many LICH patients were informed by their insurance companies last week that their health insurance will no longer cover treatment at LICH. "What happened to continuity of care?" one patient asked. "If my insurance doesn't cover it, I can't go there."
The advocacy group Patients for LICH and and other members of the community held a rally on Saturday to thank LICH staffers for saving their lives, and to protest SUNY's dismantling of the hospital.
"I'm going to be here till they knock this building down," Susan Raboy, spokesperson for Patients for LICH, told the Eagle. "SUNY needs to know we're watching them." Raboy said she was concerned that "SUNY is up to their tricks and will now eliminate bidder number three, sell all the land and not provide anything medical at all.
"It's just so sad," she said, "SUNY comes along, takes away the services, and now it's closed. First they took away the residents. Then they took the fancy robot and they couldn't do those procedures. Then the ambulances. They created a crisis when one didn't exist. And they got away with it."