Lessons learned from closure of historic Brooklyn hospital
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A bill meant to ensure that what happened to Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) never happens again to another hospital in New York is poised for consideration in the NYS Senate.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron (Greenpoint, Cobble Hill, Lower Manhattan) has filed a procedural motion that would put the LICH Act on the front burner in the Senate Health Committee.
The GOP-dominated Senate has been focused on the state budget since January, but now that its attention is turning to legislation, Squadron has filed what is called a “motion for committee consideration.” The procedure requires the chair of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Long Island), to place the bill on the agenda and schedule a vote within 45 days of the filing. A Senator can file only three such motions in the course of a year.
Sen. Squadron filed the motion on March 12, which is 45 days before April 26.
Squadron originally sponsored the Senate version of the LICH Act in December, after LICH, an historic hospital in Cobble Hill, was shut down by the state after an unprecedented two-year legal battle, and without an assessment of the healthcare needs of booming northwest Brooklyn. The site is being sold to developer Fortis Property Group.
The LICH Act would give residents and local officials a say in healthcare decisions and require a community needs assessment before a hospital is closed.
"The healthcare lost at LICH, and the battle to protect it, can't be how healthcare decisions are made in our communities," Squadron said in a statement this past weekend. "Today, there is no confidence for communities that medical needs are taken care of when a hospital closure is threatened. The LICH Act would ensure that a community's healthcare needs and the viability of the institution are core questions when hospitals are threatened. This bill needs to be pushed through the legislative process now."
Assemblymember-elect Jo Anne Simon sponsored the Assembly version of the bill, fulfilling a promise made during her election campaign for the 52nd Assembly District.
"The LICH bill is gaining support in the Assembly," Simon told the Brooklyn Eagle via email on Monday.
The measure was built around an earlier proposal by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Upon announcing the bill (S2500-2015 ) in December, Squadron said the outcome at LICH was “one of the ugliest and most destructive fights that I have seen in my time in public service. It was a fight where there were no winners.
“If we had had a process in place where the Commissioner of the Department of Health at the state was required to get community input, required to look at the health care needs of the community . . . I believe we would have ended up with a different conclusion here at LICH -- without 18 months in court, without hundreds of millions of dollars being wasted, and most importantly, with a better health care and community development outcome,” he said.
In December, city Comptroller Scott Stringer called the LICH closing “a football that got fumbled time and time again. The community was not listened to. And at the end of the day we have reduced health care services in Brooklyn at a time when we need to expand services from prenatal to a whole other range of services.”
Under the bill, the state DOH would have to explain within 30 days of an application for closure the anticipated impact of the closure on the surrounding community’s access to care and what measures will be taken to lessen negative impacts, among other issues. DOH will be required to hold a community forum within six weeks of application. The closure could only be approved if it could be shown the needs of the community – including access to emergency medical care – could be met.
It has received broad support from a number of officials, including Borough President Eric Adams; Public Advocate Letitia James; U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez; Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca, Stephen Levin and Brad Lander and numerous community and health advocacy organizations.
The measure is called the Local Input in Community Healthcare (LICH) Act, in honor of the hospital complex.