Justice Baynes promises ‘In for the long haul’
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A first look at today's court action:
In a courtroom packed with supporters of Long Island College Hospital (LICH), lawyers and reporters, Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes on Wednesday peppered attorneys for SUNY Downstate and the state Department of Health with questions probing the process of closing LICH, and urged all involved to consider “any possibility of a settlement.”
He also warned attorneys that he was growing impatient with the six-month legal battle to keep the hospital open and told them, “You might as well clear your calendars; I’m in this for the long haul.” The hearing extended all day and was scheduled to continue on Thursday.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has been joined by six civic groups and a patient in his legal action to keep the Cobble Hill hospital open. The New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU, the Concerned Physicians of LICH and others have filed separately.
Lawyers for these groups told Justice Baynes they would agree to a settlement that would keep the hospital open during the process of finding a new owner, but no move was made to proceed with one.
Justice Baynes on Wednesday focused the court’s attention on DOH regulations and its definition of its own powers; compliance with DOH’s 90-day hospital-closing notification period; the issue of having “standing” to file suit; issues regarding education law; and the possibility of seeking additional money to rent LICH property as specified in a 30-year lease.
He appeared to have his patience tested by several SUNY actions with regard to LICH, especially their lack of compliance with orders he issued to keep the hospital in operation and to restore ambulance service. He also made reference to a “criminal investigation” and its possible impact on the cases.
Baynes also expressed some skepticism with DOH’s statements that the agency’s jurisdiction mainly concerned the safe and orderly closure of hospitals, rather than making the actual decision to close them, and questioned whether LICH’s closing thus far has been orderly.
Financially troubled SUNY Downstate has been attempting to shut down the hospital in the face of vehement community opposition and the protracted legal battle. Downstate acquired LICH roughly two years ago.
This story will be updated with more details later today.