Chancellor directs 'entire SUNY system' to help
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ambulance service was restored to Long Island College Hospital (LICH) late on Friday, soon after state Supreme Court Justice Johnny Lee Baynes conferred with lawyers for SUNY, the state Department of Health, and groups fighting SUNY’s attempts to close LICH.
LICH supporters said Friday they were preparing to begin the contempt process, where they would present evidence showing that SUNY had disregarded Justice Baynes’ orders to keep hospital services at the level in effect on July 19.
Sources told the Brooklyn Eagle, “Some SUNY Trustees were served with certified copies of Justice Baynes’ October 11 order,” a requirement before contempt charges can be filed.
“More people will be served,” the source added.
After halting admissions and ambulance service to LICH late Wednesday, SUNY reversed itself the next day, saying these services would return on Friday.
SUNY blamed the shutdown on a shortage of medical specialists at LICH, and said that they would move doctors from other SUNY institutions to beef up the medical staff there.
Elisheva Zakheim, spokesperson for FDNY, told the Brooklyn Eagle that FDNY had approved a request from SUNY to take LICH off ambulance diversion for BLS (Basic Life Support) patients at 4 p.m. Friday. “These are not the most critical patients,” she said.
SUNY spokesperson David Doyle told the Eagle, “Effective at 4 p.m. today, BLS ambulance service was restored at Long Island College Hospital. Although the situation remains fluid, the chancellor has directed the entire State University of New York system to continue to assist in maintaining a safe environment at the facility.”
Nurses at LICH confirmed late Friday that ambulances had been taken off diversion.
“Our nurses are very relieved that BLS ambulances are finally back in service at LICH. It was a mistake to stop service,” said Jill Furillo, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). “The LICH community is counting on us to be open for care. We ask that all involved work together on a enduring solution so that we can continue to provide quality care to patients and their families.”
Staffing levels have been allowed to deteriorate dangerously at LICH since February, when SUNY began its attempts to close LICH. SUNY ended its residency program there, and contracts for many LICH doctors were not renewed until the last moment, leaving them uncertain of employment. As recently as last week, SUNY informed 500 nurses and other health care workers that they would be laid off, only to reverse this decision several days later.
SUNY had previously banned ambulances from delivering patients to LICH back in June, leading to what many called critical delays and overcrowding in ERs across Brooklyn all summer. Partial ambulance service was not restored until early September.
Attorney Jim Walden from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday, “If we cannot resolve [SUNY’s] continuing violations and secure adequate assurances tomorrow, we will seek contempt against Dr. Lucchesi [Chief Medical Officer at SUNY Downstate and LICH] and others.”
While attorneys were inside the Supreme Court building, members of the group “Patients for LICH” waved signs and held a petition drive outside.
Frequent patient Sue Raboy told the Brooklyn Eagle, “I strongly believe that specific individuals, including Dr. Lucchesi, need to be fined for every day SUNY was in violation of Justice Baynes’ July 19 order.
“Also, we want SUNY to open up the books,” she said.
Brooklyn Heights resident Nancy Udell told the Eagle, “I have a long-standing relationship with LICH. I volunteer, and I’ve been to the ER three times. I feel very upset that we may not have a hospital in our community -- not so much for myself but for people in neighborhoods like Red Hook, where they have no other options,” she said. “It’s so brazen; I can’t believe SUNY gets away with it.”
Neighbor Deborah Bingham told the Eagle, “This diversion is very dangerous; we can lose lives without ambulance service.”
Nina Horowitz, a Brooklyn Heights resident, said a member of her family recently had a major medical problem. “We had to go to Methodist. Don’t get me wrong, he’s getting good care there -- from doctors who came from LICH. But it’s aggravating and hard to get there.”
Horowitz said she worried about serious medical emergencies. “I’ve been in the Heights for 30 years, and I always took my kids there in emergencies.”
She added, “I’m a real estate broker. The thought of another residential condo makes me sick. We’re losing our services: there aren’t enough schools, not enough hospitals, and I’m always waiting for the library to close.”
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