Would consider public health needs before closing hospitals
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A bill that would require an assessment of community health needs and more transparency when hospitals are threatened with closure passed the New York State Assembly on Wednesday.
The measure is meant to ensure that what happened to Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital (LICH) won’t play out at other hospitals across New York state.
The Local Input in Community Healthcare (LICH) Act – named after the now-shuttered hospital -- was sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and in the Senate by state Sen. Daniel Squadron. The bill has not yet passed in the Senate.
Both officials represent the Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights, which fought for two years to stop the state from selling the 155-year-old hospital to developer Fortis Property Group.
“I am very pleased that this important piece of legislation protecting our communities is now one step closer to passage and to ensuring that when it comes to providing vital healthcare services, the communities’ voices are heard and their needs addressed,” Assemblymember Simon said in a statement after the bill’s passage.
“The public’s health should be the primary consideration when deliberating the closure of a hospital,” she added.
The bill was the first to be introduced by Simon, fulfilling a promise made during her election campaign for the 52nd Assembly District.
The LICH Act was introduced in response to what Simon called the “utter lack” of consideration of community health needs or input in the state’s decision to close the historic hospital.
“Now, where people once received health care, there will be condos with even more people needing health care,” she noted in the release.
"It's great news the Assembly has supported community input and transparency with today's vote -- no community should experience the chaos that LICH's closure caused," Sen. Squadron said in the release.
"Assemblymember Simon and the State Assembly deserve tremendous credit, particularly as Senate Republicans continue blocking this bipartisan bill,” Squadron said. “We must pass the LICH Act to ensure a community's healthcare needs and the viability of the institution are core questions when hospitals are threatened. Thank you to Assemblymember Simon, and I will continue fighting to pass the LICH Act through the Senate in the remaining hours of session."
Susan Raboy, founder and former head of the advocacy group Patients for LICH, said the bill’s passage in the Assembly moved her to tears.
“Next step the Senate,” Raboy said. “No words to say how this makes this Patient for LICH feel right now.”
The measure was built around an earlier proposal by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The LICH Act would allow the state Department of Health (DOH) commissioner to approve a hospital closure application only if the needs of the community and impacted stakeholders, including access to emergency medical care, were met.
It would require a “significant and thorough community input process dictated by a statutorily imposed timeline,” Squadron said in May.