Prime Healthcare still ‘interested in saving LICH’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in on Friday on the unraveling of the deal to provide health care at the site of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), after NYU-Langone’s surprise announcement that it had withdrawn from the transaction.
“We are heartened that today emergency services are still being provided to the community at LICH,” de Blasio spokesperson Phillip Walzak said late Friday afternoon. “Yet the fact remains that SUNY must live up to its responsibility to ensure that people who relied on LICH in the past will continue to have access to the care they need.”
With NYU’s exit, community members had sought reassurance that LICH’s walk-in emergency department, currently operated by SUNY, would remain open.
LICH's doors remained open on Friday, and a staff member said he expected they would stay that way for the time being.
De Blasio was an early champion of LICH as public advocate, famously getting arrested for the cause before his election as mayor. While he has been credited with preserving some health care at the Cobble Hill site, many community members remain deeply dissatisfied that LICH did not remain open as a full-service hospital.
The closure of LICH was a factor in the Sept. 9 primary election, where candidates in Assembly District 52 were judged in part on how steadily they had supported the hospital over the past several years. (Jo Anne Simon won the Democratic primary in a three-way race.)
Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo, called for an investigation into Cuomo’s role in the sale of LICH during her campaign. Teachout swept the LICH catchment area, gaining 67 percent of the vote, the highest of any district in the state.
Prime Healthcare 'still interested'
NYU’s withdrawal appears to leave Fortis Property Group’s deal to buy LICH from SUNY in tatters. While their proposal did not include a hospital, Fortis won the bid to buy the hospital campus substantially on the strength of the medical offerings proposed by NYU.
This is the third time a proposal for LICH has unraveled. SUNY had previously disqualified two bidders which ranked higher than Fortis in a contentious RFP process: Brooklyn Health Partners, which came in first, and Peebles Corporation, ranked second.
The bidder which came in fourth, California-based Prime Healthcare Foundation, seeks to operate LICH as a full-service hospital – and on Friday they told the Eagle they are still interested in the idea.
“We remain interested in saving Long Island College Hospital and preserving this important healthcare resource, both for its employees and the community,” said Fred Ortega, corporate director of government relations for Prime.
Ortega said the parent company, Prime Healthcare Services, is an award-winning hospital system “committed to 'saving hospitals, saving jobs and saving lives' by ensuring quality and compassionate care in the communities we serve.”
NYU blames nurses
NYU blamed their withdrawal from the deal on a judge’s decision to involve them in a lawsuit by the New York state Nurses Association (NYSNA), which wanted SUNY to enforce NYU’s promise to give precedence to current LICH nurses in staffing the facility.
“We fear this would ultimately force NYU Langone to remove the highly qualified nursing staff we had hired and constrain our ability to choose nurses who meet our standards,” said a spokesperson for NYU.
NYSNA, however, says NYU tried to punish LICH nurses, who fought alongside the community and elected officials to save the hospital. Rather than rehire the nurses, “NYU has walked away from its commitment to Brooklyn patients,” said Jill Furillo, executive director of NYSNA in a statement.
“NYU apparently took offense at the prospect of being asked to live up to its word,” she added.
NYU’s exit brings SUNY once again back to the drawing table with LICH.
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle said on Friday, “There are no winners. Cobble Hill could have had 21st century health care, yet is left with uncertainty. SUNY students and campuses are left with a massive financial burden. The future of the facility is uncertain and SUNY will assess all available options it is entitled to under the stipulation and order.”
LICH has been the scene of dozens of protests by patients, employees and elected officials since SUNY decided to close it almost two years ago, saying it was losing money.
LICH supporters say, however, that SUNY never committed to keeping LICH in operation after taking it over in 2011 – and public records and documents obtained by the Brooklyn Eagle show that SUNY lost at least $100 million at LICH through sheer mismanagement.